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Index – click on the links to move to the various sections

EVENTS: Includes Event Articles and Videos

12/3/18

9/26/18

 

TRUMP DAMAGE ASSESSMENTS

IRS

 

BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

 


 

EVENTS

12/3/2018


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 3, 2018:  EQUAL RIGHTS FOR WOMEN: ONE STATE AWAY FROM CONSTITUTIONAL EQUALITY

You can watch and share the full December 3, 2018 ERA event video HERE.

The National Affairs Committee (NAC) cosponsored Equal Rights for Women: One State away from Constitutional Equality, a panel discussion and reception with the Woman’s National Democratic Club (WNDC) and the Feminist Majority Foundation.

When: 6:30-8:30pm, December 3, 2018    

Where: Woman’s National Democratic Club?1526 New Hampshire Avenue, NW (at Q St.) Washington, DC 20036

Panelists:
Ellie Smeal, President and Co-founder, Feminist Majority Foundation, former President of National Organization for Women (NOW)
Eileen Davis, Co-founder, Women-Matter.org
Andrea Miller, Executive Director, People Demanding Action
Wendy Murphy, JD, Director, Women’s and Children’s Advocacy Project, Professor of sexual violence law, New England Law|Boston

Click here for the WNDC website link
Click here for the Facebook Event
Click here for the flyer

EQUAL RIGHTS FOR WOMEN: ONE STATE AWAY FROM CONSTITUTIONAL EQUALITY

Event Report by Barbara Levine, Hunter Mill NAC Member

The National Affairs Committee (NAC) of FCDC in co-sponsorship with the Women’s National Democratic Club and the Feminist Majority Foundation, presented a panel discussion on Monday, December 3 advocating for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

The Amendment, first passed by 2/3 majorities in the Senate and the House in 1972, is now one state away from ratification. The NAC, based in Virginia but with a mission to address issues of national concern, has taken particular interest in working toward this goal by making Virginia the final ratifying state. NAC Chair, Sandra J. Klassen, addressed the gathering and reminded us that without passage of an ERA amendment, all of the political and judicial gains achieved by women remain vulnerable to Court and Executive decisions. Passage of the ERA would, by requiring equal pay for all, lift large numbers of women out of poverty while raising income and benefits for all citizens- especially those working in “traditional” women’s professions. Additionally, ratification of the ERA would finally allow the United States to join the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). This is an international treaty, adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly. It has been ratified by 189 states. To date, the U.S. has not ratified the treaty.

The panelists were: Eleanor Smeal, President and Co-Founder of the Feminist Majority Foundation and former President of the National Organization for Women (NOW); Wendy Murphy, J.D., Director of the Women’s and Children’s Advocacy Project and Professor of Sexual Violence Law, at New England Law/Boston; Eileen Davis, Co-Founder of Women-Matter.org and Andrea Miller, Executive Director of People Demanding Action.

Ms. Smeal shared some of the history behind the creation of the ERA amendment. Senator Sam Ervin made sure that not only was there a time limit for passage, but he also wanted to make sure that the amendment was tied to both federal and state’s rights- a clear signal to the southern states in particular to vote NO. Opposition was also particularly strong from religious leaders of the Mormon and Catholic faiths in fear of abortion and contraception rights. Oddly enough, states with big university football teams also were opposed- out of fear that sports money would then have to be shared with female athletes!

Ms. Murphy, specializing in protecting women and children from sexual violence, explained that the gap that exists between equality and inequality is where the violence happens. She also explained that the concept of Title 9, which most people think is only related to athletic equality, is actually equal to the ERA amendment. It is just smaller in scope. She described the legal options available once ratification of the amendment occurs. There are issues surrounding the fact that there was a seven year deadline imposed upon ratification of the ERA, which was actually extended to 1982. However, mitigating circumstances may allow for ratification notwithstanding the expired deadline. Ms. Murphy and a team of expert legal minds are currently working on this issue and will be prepared to move forward immediately after ratification.

Eileen Davis is focused on getting the ERA passed by the Virginia legislature- making Virginia the final determining vote for ratification. She pointed out that even Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Antonin Scalia agreed that gender equality does not exist in the U.S. Constitution. The ERA passed the Virginia Senate five times since 2011, most recently in 2016. In 2018, 21 of 40 Senators signed on as patrons- 19 Democrats, 2 Republicans; 52 of 100 Delegates signed on as patrons- 48 Democrats, 4 Republicans. The ERA had additional supporters besides these patrons and would have passed easily had it made its way to the floor in either/both the House and the Senate. We must redouble our efforts in this next legislative session to get the ERA into the right committee and then onto the floor for a final vote.

Andrea Miller, of People Demanding Action is working with National partners including Daily Kos, Social Security Works, American Family Voices, CREDO Action and People for the American Way in also trying to remove the deadline imposed on the ERA at its inception. This group stands poised to work with legal teams such as Wendy Murphy’s to either go through the Courts or return to Congress for final ratification of the ERA.

 


September 26, 2018:  FIVE ECONOMIC EXPERTS IN DIALOGUE ON THE TEN YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE FAILURE OF LEHMAN BROTHERS

At the National Press Club, on September 26, 2018 the National Affairs Committee (NAC) cosponsored a roundtable discussion addressing the fallout from the Lehman bankruptcy, and major issues gripping the economy today. The panelists asserted that whether the financial bubble begins to pop in emerging markets, over-leveraged corporate sectors or from over-stretched consumers — the reality is that a new financial crisis is brewing. 

Click here to review event video 

Ten Years after Lehman Brothers: It Could All Easily Happen Again 

Event Report by Ray Marin, Providence NAC Member

That, unfortunately, is the unsettling conclusion anyone must reach after listening to the five prominent financial experts who met on September 26, 2018, at the National Press Club, to discuss conditions in the US financial sector today, a decade after the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Indeed, according to their assessment, today conditions may be even worse than those that led to the demise of the venerable Wall Street investment bank, and that ushered in the US – and the world – financial system near-collapse in October 2008.

Who’s to Blame?

The speakers found enough blame to spread around, including among Democrats – most notably Presidents Clinton and Obama. The banks and their acolytes were, of course, the prime movers, having spent two decades undermining faith in the Glass-Steagall Act. That legislation, adopted in 1933 in response to the abuses on Wall Street that helped bring on the Great Depression, prohibited commercial banks from dabbling in Wall Street securities games and helped make possible the sixty-year economic expansion that followed the Great Depression. The speakers were of a mind that uncreditworthy homebuyers, at whose doorsteps many financial institutions would lay blame for the 2008 financial debacle, were not the culprits. As Nomi Prins put it: “Home buyers did not snooker Goldman Sachs.”

Those of us reading these lines and who consider ourselves progressives (if not also staunch Democrats) might ask: how were Presidents Clinton and Obama to blame? President Clinton, of course, wielded the pen that signed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which repealed Glass-Steagall. And President Obama, rather than appointing a reformer as his treasury secretary, named former New York Fed President Timothy Geithner to the post – someone whom the speakers considered was too closely tied to Wall Street. The result was Dodd-Frank, a law adopted during Geithner’s tenure that, although largely toothless, Wall Street banks are nevertheless trying to weaken.

Today, concentration of the US banking system is, according to the speakers, even more pronounced than in 2008, with a half-dozen banks commanding resources equal in value to the whole of the US economy. According to Nomi Prins, the US Federal Reserve has pumped over four trillion dollars into the markets since 2008 to prop up the banking system, some 2.5 trillion of which are languishing even now on their balance sheets. The subprime mortgages that were the foundation for the ever more exotic – and toxic – financial derivatives that Wall Street alchemists created (and which rating agencies hyped with their triple-A ratings) are no longer the issue. Instead, there is a burgeoning derivatives market based on collateralized loan obligations (CLOs). “They only changed one letter,” quipped Nomi Prins, recalling the notoriously toxic collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) of yesteryear.

The speakers agreed that repeal of Glass-Steagall was the seminal event that permitted the inexorable slide toward the financial near-collapse of 2008. They agreed also that the US government’s choice to rescue the Wall Street banks, rather than to prop up the little guys on Main Street, was just that: a political choice. That choice has helped coalesce in the public’s mind the notion that government, of no matter what stripe, is always in bed with Wall Street, and gives not one whit about the little guy.

Enter Donald Trump.

A video of the one-hour, forty-one minute program is available on YouTube HERE.

*Panelists:

Nomi Prins, Journalist, former Wall Street executive, author, speaker                        

Robert Kuttner, Cofounder and coeditor of The American Prospect                         

Marcus Stanley, Policy Director of Americans for Financial Reform                          

Bart Naylor, Financial Policy Advocate for Public Citizen                                         

Arthur Wilmarth, GMU Professor of Law, expert on bank reform and financial regulation

 


TRUMP DAMAGE ASSESSMENTS

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – Report by Sully NAC Member Andrew Scalise

The IRS’ mission is to provide America’s taxpayers top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and enforce the law with integrity and fairness to all. In fiscal year 2015, the IRS collected over $3.3 trillion in revenue and processed 240 million tax returns, at a cost of 35 cents for every $100 collected,[1] making it one of the most efficient tax collecting entities in the world. While most Americans dread April 15th, we all recognize that the IRS plays a critical role in ensuring our country can pay for the infrastructure, security, and public services that we take for granted.

No other government agency bears the brunt of conservative cynicism more than the IRS and the effects of the Trump administration are taking its toll. If the so-called “tax reform” bill was not enough of an indicator of President Trump and the Republican Party’s priorities, Mr. Trump’s appointment of Charles Rettig as IRS Commissioner is a clear revelation. Mr. Rettig spent his career defending high worth individuals against IRS claims and aggressively fought the IRS on behalf of wealthy clients to minimize fines and penalties for offshore bank accounts and other tax avoidance schemes. Mr. Rettig also publicly supports Trump in his refusal to release details of his tax returns.[2]

While his IRS Commissioner was being considered by the Senate, Trump’s Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, removed a regulation that required political organizations report donors confidentially to the IRS. This regulation allowed the IRS to identify “dark money” donors and ensure compliance with tax law and campaign finance regulations, while providing a check against foreign financial influence.[3] Trump’s elimination of this requirement greatly weakens the IRS’s and other authorities’ ability to protect the integrity of our political institutions from foreign influence, conveniently at a time when his own campaign is under investigation for the same.

Perhaps no action taken by the Trump administration is more damaging to the IRS as the aggressive budget cuts and hiring restrictions pervading most of our non-defense agencies. While the proliferation of electronic filing has allowed the IRS to maintain consistent staffing levels in 2015 and 2016, the number of tax returns filed continues to increase.[4] In the wake of widespread changes to the tax code, resulting in excessive taxpayer confusion and requiring substantial IRS guidance and support, the Trump administration proposed even more massive funding and staffing cuts in 2017 through 2019, straining the resources of an agency already stretched too thin.

       

As the Trump administration undermines the very agency working to fund its misguided priorities, it exposes the country to tremendous risks. Budget cuts and staff shortages inhibit the IRS’s ability to help taxpayers comply with the complex new tax laws; removing logical regulations obscures the IRS’s view into financial records, allowing bad actors to slip by; and questionable leadership choices shows a clear intention to prevent the IRS from fulfilling its mission. We can start to get it back on course this November.

[1] https://www.irs.gov/about-irs/the-agency-its-mission-and-statutory-authority

[2] https://wtop.com/business-finance/2018/06/trump-choice-for-irs-chief-coming-under-senate-scrutiny/

[3] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-tax-irs/senate-panel-narrowly-approves-trump-irs-nominee-idUSKBN1K92TY

[4] https://www.irs.gov/statistics/soi-tax-stats-irs-data-book

 


BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff 

If your daily fix of MSNBC, CNN, and other real news outlets didn’t give you enough insight into the first year of the Trump White House, pick up a copy of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury to learn every salacious detail. Covering Trump and his team’s shocking result on election night through to shortly after the ouster of President Steve Bannon, Fire and Fury describes a hectic White House with endless backstabbing, leaking, and posturing from administration officials all to curry the favor of Trump — or to manipulate him.

Michael Wolff’s account from countless hours in the White House describes piece by piece how the campaign and later the administration came together, with each chapter marking a specific event or person in the timeline. Follow Bannon as he navigates his alt-right agenda through the moderate “Jarvanka” coalition and the GOP establishment Priebus coalition in the quest to turn Breitbart’s fantasies into reality.

Fire and Fury is an addicting read that is hard to put down after page one. Each page provides another insight into the mind of the president or the people around him. Wolff provides a number of direct quotes from campaign and administration insiders that give you a true feel of what it was like in the room. Who was backing Trump from the beginning? Did Bannon really proclaim himself to be the real president? Who is running the show now that Bannon is gone? And what role did Russia really play in it all? Fire and Fury answers all of these questions and more, and while some of Wolff’s story sounds like a soap opera, there’s no fake news in this book.

 

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right  By Arlie Russell Hochschild

Reviewed by Paul W. Jameson, Mount Vernon NAC Member

The debate in the Democratic Party continues as to whether we should even bother to reach out to the “disaffected white working class.” Berkeley sociology professor Arlie Hochschild found herself becoming alarmed “at the increasingly hostile split in our nation between two political camps.” She made it her next research project to dive deeply into the culture of the right, visiting around Lake Charles, Louisiana over five years, culminating as Trump was elected. She was an old-time liberal, traveling to Mississippi as a college student during the Freedom Summer of 1964 to register voters. But she wanted to cross the “empathy wall” that can make us feel indifferent or hostile to those who hold different beliefs. Professor Hochschild doesn’t quite manage to bridge the “empathy wall” herself, but she gets closer than most of us. “Strangers in Their Own Land” can help with that debate.

The area around Lake Charles is in the heart of petrochemical country. It is one of the most polluted places in the United States. But the residents tend to vote strongly Republican, and oppose government efforts to regulate the industry. Professor Hochschild called this “The Great Paradox,” and tried to understand where this attitude came from. In her research, she talked with 60 people, eventually choosing six to profile more deeply.

As much as we’d like there to be simple answers, when one makes a deep dive like Professor Hochschild does, the usual answer is “it’s complicated.” As tempting as it may be, the people she profiles cannot be simply dismissed as ignorant bigots.

For example, Lee Sherman is 82 years old, an ardent environmentalist, but a volunteer for Tea Party candidates who favor cutting the EPA. He had worked as a pipefitter in a petrochemical plant. He did what he was told to do, which included taking a tank full of tar residue out into the Bayou d’Inde in the dark, and emptying the tank into the marsh. He suffered ill effects from chemical exposure, took medical leave, but when he returned he was fired for absenteeism.

Seven years later, the state issued a seafood advisory for the Bayou d’Inde. There was a huge meeting between the angry local fishermen and representatives of the petrochemical industry, including the company that had fired Lee. After 20 minutes of people asking what caused the pollution and the industry representatives feigning ignorance, Lee climbed up onto the stage and held up a sign that read: “I’m the one who dumped it in the Bayou.” He proceeded to explain what he did.

But he disliked the federal government, “his source of news was limited to Fox News and videos and blogs exchanged by right-wing friends, which placed him in an echo chamber of doubt about the EPA, the federal government, the president {Obama}, and taxes.”

It’s a lot more complicated than can be conveyed in a short review, but Professor Hochschild came up with the “Deep Story” that resonated with her new friends in Lake Charles: You are waiting in a long line, just over the brow of the hill that you’re facing towards is the American Dream, but the line doesn’t seem to be moving. Then you see people cutting in line ahead of you, and Obama is letting them cut in: women, immigrants, refugees, brown pelicans with oil-drenched wings. You resent it.

This is where they’re coming from.