On today's BradCast: Democrats propose a new tax on Wall Street traders that could both put the brakes on market volatility that threatens the investments of average Americans, while raising billions of much needed dollars for the federal government. [Audio link to show follows below.]
But first, some good news for the nation out of California. Newly elected Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom has now signed an executive order placing a moratorium on the state-sanctioned killing of some 737 individuals on the state's death row. Describing the death penalty as "discriminatory" and a "failure" that has resulted in the deaths of "wrongly convicted" people proven innocent, while costing the state billions of dollars, the Governor has now blocked the barbaric planned executions of about one quarter of those slated to be killed by governments across the nation.
"It’s a very emotional place that I stand," Newsom said at a presser today, "This is about who I am as a human being, this is about what I can or cannot do. To me this is the right thing to do." As we discuss, it's not the first time that Newsom, as a public official, has placed doing the right moral thing over what may or may not be politically popular, at the moment, among the electorate.
Back in Washington D.C., Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was sentenced to an additional 73 months for criminal conspiracy fraud and witness tampering on Wednesday. Some of those months will be served concurrently with the 47 months he was sentenced to last week in a Virginia federal court related to undisclosed lobbying for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine. With the partially concurrent sentencing, the 69-year old Manafort now faces nearly seven years in prison.
While none of the 20 or so federal counts in two different courts that Manafort was found guilty of had charged "collusion" with Russia for interference in the 2016 election, his attorney and Donald Trump used the occasion once again to lie about that fact to the American public today. But just minutes after today's new sentencing, Manhattan's District Attorney announced 16 new indictments against Manafort in state court related to mortgage fraud and more than a dozen other crimes for which, if found guilty, the President would be unable to pardon him. Trump's pardon power extends only to federal, not state crimes.
As the madness surrounding our criminal Presidency continues, Democrats in Congress are pushing ahead with a number of progressive policy proposals in advance of 2020 to hopefully help pull the nation out of its current self-imposed morass and rebalance some of the worsening inequities between the wealthy, the poor and the middle class. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Congressman Pete DeFazio (D-OR) have now introduced new legislation that would create a very small, 0.1%, Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) on every stock market transaction. The bill [PDF] --- which already has a number of Democratic cosponsors in the House and Senate, including among Presidential hopefuls --- is estimated to raise as much as $800 billion in much-needed revenue for federal coffers over ten years. As importantly, the measure is designed to ease market volatility by curbing the legalized skimming that takes place by high volume computer traders who purchase trades from normal investors and sell them back to the investors at a higher rate, all within a fraction of a second.
The legislation is supported by some 60 non-partisan good government organizations, including Public Citizen. Attorney SUSAN HARLEY, Deputy Director of the group's Congress Watch division, joins us today to explain this new move toward an FTT that would cost traders one-tenth of a cent per dollar traded. That's $1 for every thousand invested or, as Harley explains, "Ten cents out of every 100 dollars traded. That's why we like to talk about it as rebuilding Main Street on Wall Street's dime."
"We do pay taxes on all of our purchases," she tells me. "so Wall Street should be doing the same as far as these stocks trades, bond trades, and derivative trades. It absolutely is about fairness, about making sure Wall Street is paying back the US because we did bail them out for the financial crash."
She details how the proposal is ultimately a very progressive tax, even as it's very small, because it would largely fall on the wealthy. "We've really got to re-balance our tax code, and unrigging our economy starts with making Wall Street pay its fair share. The top 1% of society owns two thirds of all financial securities."
"We did research on existing fees --- things like commission, overhead costs, broker fees. The Financial Transactions Tax would be only about $80 for the average 401k or retirement saver, versus more than $1000 in existing fees. That's just the average. Some funds have existing fees of more than $2500 dollars. So, it really is a drop in the bucket as compared to the existing commissions and other types of ways that Wall Street is taking it out of the pocket of average investors."
Harley discusses both the legislation's challenges and growing political support on Capitol Hill, where the Trump/GOP 2017 $1.5 trillion tax cut, largely for corporations and the wealthy, has resulted in record trillion dollar annual deficits and a recent budget proposal by Trump to cut more than a trillion dollars from social programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. (He had vowed to not cut those programs during his 2016 campaign, while suggesting that Democrats would do so.)
Finally, speaking of progressive policy proposals, the recently introduced Green New Deal is already paying off. Rightwingers have been freaking out about it, and lying about it, but they are also scrambling to respond after realizing its huge popularity among the electorate and how silly they look. Several longtime climate science deniers, including Trump acolyte and accomplice Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), are now taking baby steps by conceding that "climate change is real" and "humans contribute". Soon they may even notice that, according to climate scientists, human activity is actually responsible for 100% of the warming we've seen to date. But, hey, it's a start...
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(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)