Progressive Populist

Trump’s Top 10 Tax Tricks

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has refused to release his tax returns, saying “It’s none of your business” and “there’s nothing to learn.” Of course, there is something to learn from the recent tax returns of a supposed billionaire who seeks to gain the trust of American voters. If we had access to Trump’s returns we’d learn Donald’s top 10 tax tricks.

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Why Chipotle Has Seriously Shaken Up the Fast Food Industry

Chipotle recently shook the world — well, OK, not the whole world, but the fast-food one — by announcing that pork would be off the menu in 600 restaurants for an unspecified time because they weren’t able to source sustainably-raised pork.

Chipotle is trying to live within their motto “Food with Integrity.” According to their website, they buy from “farmers whose pigs are raised outside or in deeply bedded pens, are never given antibiotics and are fed a vegetarian diet. It’s the way animals were raised before huge factory farms changed the industry. We believe pigs that are cared for in this way enjoy happier, healthier lives and produce the best pork we’ve ever tasted.”

Yeah, I know that the “deeply bedded pens” is a troubling phrase. It means that the animals can be kept inside, but not on metal floors with no bedding. That “slatted floor” system is usual in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). The mama pigs are kept in pens—gestation crates—for their pregnancy where they barely have room to move from a standing position to lying down. From the top, the mamas look like hot dog buns in a package, almost attached side to side. Then they are supposed to move to a birthing crate—called a farrowing crate. The movement, after three months of immobility, involves a lot of abuse from handlers, according to Ten Genoways’ new book The Chain: Farm, Factory and the Fate of our Food. In fact, if you get that book, you might want to skip the part where the mamas (called sows) have to move from one crate to another.

The Chipotle move is a strong idea for a food sector usually known for unhealthy recipes, exploited workers and cheap ingredients.

Rumors had been flying around the sustainable ag community for about a year that Chipotle wasn’t living up to its mission, but I don’t eat fast food, so I didn’t pay much attention. And, now that the word is out, I haven’t been able to find out exactly how the boycott, which is truly revolutionary, came about. Chipotle has been tightlipped about which growers, exactly, broke the rules.

So where did the discovery begin? Did consumers appear at outlets with signs to protest? Or did the action come from stockholders, threatening to sell and drive the price of stock into the cellar? Or did a conscientious manager figure out that Chipotle should put their policies into action?

Whatever the reason, the announcement gave Chipotle stock a nice little pop after years of steady growth. And other fast food chains should take note. They say it’s too hard to find good meats, but that’s changing fast.

Here in Missouri, consumers are really catching on and our farmers are also! One of the factoids I picked up at a recent conference was that in our state there has been a huge increase in the amount of meat butchered locally for the local market. Three years ago, there were 9 slaughterhouses with state inspection. Today there are 39 ... an increase of more than 400%.

It’s easy these days to find locally-raised meats in good restaurants and grocery stores. Fast food chains should take note.

At that same conference were a whole lot of row-croppers, the big guys with the huge combines and lots of debt, who want to get into something new. Biotech crops are not working as advertised, especially when it comes to failures in weed control. The resistant weeds are truly becoming a problem to ordinary corn-belt farmers. This year, they may adopt crops with different resistance—2,4D and dicamba have been approved. But row-croppers can see that 2,4D and dicamba, besides being dangerous, will quickly have resistance issues.

Also, commodity crop prices are unstable and the farmers have realized they don’t have diversity of markets. They’re stuck with the ups and downs, can’t set their own prices like we little guys can, selling directly to consumers that want what we raise.

I’ve had row-croppers tell me they want to sell food instead of fuel. They WANT the connection with consumers. The majority of our neighbors are afraid to speak out but they pull me aside and thank me for what we’re doing. I have always gone to all the ladies’ club meetings, so I see the wives a lot. Very sad they won’t speak out.

All this might be difficult for small farms like mine, as the big guys flex their muscles. They have the potential of raising lots and lots of local foods, consolidating the market so that little farms can’t compete. And the big guys have the muscle to change the rules so that standards like the organic standards are changed to confuse consumers.

It all remains to be seen, but the Chipotle move shows that consumers can benefit if restaurants and grocers decide to develop a conscience.
 

The Incredible Lies We Are Told About Wall Street

Fewer than half of the US population owns a single share of stock and even fewer Americans are in a position to start their own businesses. Nonetheless, at least in rhetoric this nation remains the land of the self-made man — and occasional woman. Many believe they still have the opportunity to be real entrepreneurs — by investing in corporate America through the stock market.

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How Asia's Brutal Privatization Drives Are Creating Misery For Its People

In the 2012 elections in South Korea, Park Geun-hye, as a presidential candidate, pledged to rebuild the middle class and increase its size to 70% of South Korean society. It turned out to be an effective political strategy that greatly contributed to her election. In many Asian economies, economic polarization has become an important issue and it has its impact on the political debate.

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A Vinyl Renaissance Is Supporting Record Stores Across the Country

Halleluiah! The 12-inch vinyl album that once revolutionized listening to recorded music and was instrumental in driving the massive growth of the record industry from the 1960s into the ‘80s, and was all but relegated to being an archaic artifact by the digital revolution, has made a huge comeback. And in the process has also all but saved the independent retail record store that was also in danger of nearly disappearing as a result of online music sales and thievery.

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Dangerous Pesticides Showing Up More and More In Our Urine and Breast Milk

In early April, the shocking news that breast milk carries many times the allowable amount of glyphosate, also called Roundup, came out on the web. Glyphosate is a poison that defoliates plants, but back in the late 1990s, farmers began planting soybeans that resisted the chemical, bouncing back from a dowse of Glyphosate like they had just enjoyed a spring rain, while the weeds around them died. The Frankenstein soybeans were followed by releases of genetically modified corn, cotton, canola and sugar beets. Now, many crops carry the gene.

As a result, according to the release, scientists found glyphosate at “760 to 1600 times higher than the European Drinking Water Directive allows for individual pesticides.” These levels are less than allowable levels set by America’s Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has been led to believe that glyphosate exits the body and does not accumulate. How could they think that?

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Pathetic: How the USDA Cowers to the Poultry Industry

This article originally appeared at the Progressive Populist, and is reprinted here with their permission.

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Low Testosterone Is a Gold Mine for Snake Oil Salesmen

You want to get rich. Most of us do. Here is a surefire way. Create a malady – not a disease or an illness, more a condition. Try a deficiency of a vitamin, a hormone, a chemical. Something that sounds natural. Describe the symptoms – nothing life-shattering enough to propel people to emergency rooms, more of an ineffable malaise. Convince people that they may have it. Then invent the cure. Make it simple – like a gel, patch, or tablet. Flood the web with offerings. Then wait for the anecdotal raves. Or create some raves. Voila – a stake on a pharmaceutical goldmine.

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School District Backs Down on Its Plan to Chip Student IDs

The huge Northside Independent School District (NISD) in San Antonio, Texas announced July 16 it was scrapping its widely distrusted program of micro-chipping student IDs with RFID technology — which brave NISD student Andrea Hernandez opposed with all her might. With unwavering support from her father, she sparked a groundswell that overcame the NISD administration’s designs.

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Look Out: Corporations Promote ‘Right to Farm’

Every year for the last six or eight, family farmers and small-town residents in Missouri have had to fight off legislations designed to take away our local control and put all the lawmaking privileges in the hands of state lawmakers. Taken to the extreme, this would mean that county, city and township ordinances and laws would be void. No more city zoning, no health ordinances guaranteeing special treatment such as special regulations against noise, air pollution, water pollution and so forth, for county residents that demanded it.

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