The F Word

From Franco's Fascism to Trump's Nationalism: Arlie and Adam Hochschild

In the aftermath of the election, much has been said about what liberal government, media, businesses failed to do: contextualize his rise to office and connect with his voters to change their minds. In this episode, Laura interviews Adam and Arlie Hochschild, the duo who have each spent their careers documenting the complexities of political behavior.

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The F Word: Rosa Luxemburg

As some of you may remember, I’ve been hosting an on going series with economist Rick Wolff and journalist Chris Hedges, looking at the Left’s classic texts in the contemporary context.

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The F Word: Men Who Move and States That Shake

One man moves and a whole state shakes? When that one man is hedge fund billionaire David Tepper, that’s just what happens. David Tepper is a multi-billion dollar hedge fund manager who’s lived in New Jersey for more than 20 years. Now he’s moving his home, and his business, to low-tax Florida. And that’ll cost New Jersey millions, probably hundreds of millions, in lost tax revenue.

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The F Word: Eat the Rich?

Enough time has gone by that it’s worth following up on a question raised but then rapidly dropped this spring. Remember the Panama papers? That staggering dump of 11.5 million documents leaked on fourteen thousand clients of the law firm Mossack Fonseca in Panama. Mossack Fonseca offered legal assistance to people and businesses seeking to set up shop in tax havens around the world.

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Why are Taxpayers Subsidizing Church?

Happy Easter everyone! Have you ever noticed how — US Constitution notwithstanding — churches occupy a pretty special place in our society?

Just consider the upcoming holiday. If there’s a Christian church in your hood, chances are, you might see a street cleaned up or closed for a parade, or a police officer assigned to mind parishioners.

That work’s done by public workers, by the state - which is to say, it’s paid for out of taxes. But religious institutions don’t pay taxes. They’re tax exempt, remember?

So who pays? We do.

We subsidize the church by paying more than our share, even if we never step foot in a place of worship.

Churches don’t even have to apply for tax-exempt status the way the rest of us do by filling out lengthy, complex forms like other nonprofits. Places of worship get non profit status simply by virtue of declaring themselves. They get special dispensation to discriminate too, against women and fire people on moral grounds that wouldn't stand a chance in any other court.

The Supreme Court’s currently considering a case, called Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, which purports to turn on the question of whether public workers should have to contribute to the union that represents them if those unions engage in political activities the members don't endorse.

But you and I subsidize churches every day, whether we like it or not. Lots of congregations provide valuable services, I understand, but we the taxpayers don’t get to choose the soup kitchens over the homophobes… We subsidize both every day.

The point is, if you think church and state in the US are happily distinct. Think again. Oh yes, and Happy Easter. 

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How Many of America's Decaying Public Schools Are Making Students and Teachers Sick

A picture’s worth a thousand words they say, and that was certainly the case earlier this year when public school teachers in Detroit started tweeting out pictures of the crumbling schools they work in.

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The Great Corporate Buy-Up: Because of Corporations, Our Cities Are Not Our Own

Think you can tell the difference between a city and a business park? It may not be so clear. A corporate buying boom since the financial crash is gobbling up city property and leaving us with places that are literally not our town.

Purchasing took off after 2008, when foreclosure rates were high, bank loans were drying up, and record levels of commercial properties were standing vacant. Last year, major acquisitions by corporations topped a $1 trillion in 100 large cities and by major we do mean major — in New York, that’s only counting property-buys of worth $5m or more.

The great corporate buy-up is leaving us with more mega projects, more private space, and more people, but less of everything else, most notably, less of everything public, from parks and plazas to elected governance and with all that private space, comes more private police.

The reliance on armed private contractors outside of the public command, is no longer only a phenomenon for our embassies in Kabul and Baghdad. It’s increasingly the norm at home. Angry about police violence? Pushing for more effective community oversight? We may get more and more of that, and less and less police.

There are other outcomes too: all that concentration of wealth’s matched by a concentration of poverty. Last year, the Century Foundation reported that since 2000 the number of people living in high-poverty slums had nearly doubled.

The world’s great cities have been places where the poor can make an impact, on commerce, cuisine and culture. The poor can’t do that in a business park.

As sociologist Saskia Sassen put it recently, the corporate city is a place where “low-wage workers can work, but not “make."

There are alternative models of development, but first we have to get to know our cities better. Just who owns what? And who’s getting tax breaks? Is the great corporate buy-up really what we want?

Watch my interview with Aaron Bartley and John Washington of Buffalo Push, about their successful fight for sustainable housing in Buffalo, New York, this week on the Laura Flanders Show on KCET/LINKtv and TeleSUR.

Dark Money: What Might The Money Media Cover If They Weren't Covering Trump?

Dark Money, Super PACs, shady multi-millionaires buying your democracy. When Americans were asked recently what they fear most, it wasn’t terrorists (unless you mean the sort that take over your TV at election time.) It was corruption of government officials.

It’s that fear that a certain multi-millionaire megalomaniac is playing into when he says "I’m so rich I can’t be bought - so vote for me."

So is voting for a billionaire to protect you from rule by billionaires a sensible way to fight money in politics? Not exactly. It just looks that way on TV.

Is today's election auction normal or inevitable? Neither. A handful of Supreme Court decisions, decided by a single vote unloosed the cash-flow. It’s happened mostly over the last ten years. As the Brennan Center reported this January, just one justice shifting opinion could speedily restore common sense limits on big spending.

Change won't come easily. In the last quarter century, the share of political contributions traceable to the top hundredth of Americans has doubled - from 15 percent to 30 percent. Excess corporate cash rushes into every Congressional and State House office in the land.

Concentration of wealth is the problem. Corruption is the consequence. But it’s just not true there’s nothing regular Americans can do.

Reformers in California are gathering signatures to put a Voters Bill of Rights on the ballot next November that would require TV ads to display their top donors clearly - and overhaul the state’s campaign finance database to make tracking special interests easier.

California’s measure could send a message - even to the justices. Similar efforts are underway in Maine and Washington and South Dakota. But paying more attention to people making change would require money media to pay just a little less attention to that billionaire.

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