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Bill to Create a Millionaires Surtax and End Tax Breaks for Big Oil

WASHINGTON, March 10 - Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today introduced The Emergency Deficit Reduction Act that would establish a surtax on millionaires and eliminate tax breaks for big oil and gas companies.

Sanders, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, said any proposal to fund the government for the rest of this fiscal year must pair additional revenue from those who can afford it the most with spending cuts.

"The American people get it. They understand you can't move toward deficit reduction just by cutting programs that working families, the middle class, low-income people desperately need in order to survive in the midst of this terrible recession. They understand that serious, responsible deficit reduction requires shared sacrifice," Sanders said in a Senate floor speech.

Under Sanders' legislation, a 5.4 percent tax on income of more than $1 million a year would yield up to $50 billion annually for the U.S. Treasury.

The same legislation would end tax breaks for big oil and gas companies. That provision would yield about $3.5 billion a year in new revenue.

Sanders voted yesterday against a House-passed spending bill that slashed Head Start, Pell grants, community health centers, LIHEAP, the Social Security Administration and many other programs that are vitally important to millions of middle-class families.

"The Republicans wanted to move toward a balanced budget solely on the backs of the middle class and some of the most vulnerable people in this country, but didn't ask the wealthiest people, who are becoming much wealthier, to contribute one penny in shared sacrifice."

He also voted against a Democratic alternative saying afterward that "if the Democrats are serious about deficit reduction they have to raise revenue along with spending cuts."

You can support BuzzFlash and Truthout by getting a copy of the extraordinary Bernie Sanders' "Filibuster" speech in book form by clicking here. (Minimum contribution applies.)

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Calls for Surtax on Millionaires, Ending Breaks for Big Oil


BURLINGON, Vt., March 6 - As the U.S. Senate heads for votes this week on competing spending plans for the rest of the year, Sen. Bernie Sanders said Congress also must raise additional revenue to reduce deficits.  He proposed a surtax on millionaires and eliminating tax breaks for Big Oil.

While there is widespread agreement on the need to reduce the $14 national debt and $1.6 trillion deficit, Sanders (I-Vt.) said "this must include not only budget cuts, but raising revenue in a fair and economically just way."

Sanders, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, also said, "It would be morally wrong for the United States to balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable people in our society while asking nothing from the wealthiest."

Sanders suggested an emergency surtax on millionaires. A 5.4 percent surtax on adjusted gross incomes over $1 million would raise as much as $50 billion a year. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll published last week showed overwhelming support for that concept.

Sanders also would end tax breaks for big oil and gas companies.  Over the past decade, the five largest oil companies in the U.S. earned nearly $1 trillion in profits.  Meanwhile, in recent years, some of the largest oil companies in this country paid nothing in federal income taxes.  Ending those tax breaks could raise at least $3.5 billion a year.

Senate leadership already agreed to cut spending by $41 billion.  The president last week signed into law a short-term continuing resolution that cut an additional $4 billion. Senate negotiators have offered additional $6.5 billion in cuts.  That's more than half of the $100 billion House Republicans have called for in terms of deficit reduction.

"Unfortunately, until now, virtually the entire debate in Washington has focused only on cutting federal programs," Sanders said. "Many of the cuts being proposed will have a devastating impact on some of the most vulnerable people in our nation - including seniors, children, the sick and the poor."

You can support BuzzFlash and Truthout by getting a copy of the extraordinary Bernie Sanders' "Filibuster" speech in book form by clicking here. (Minimum contribution applies.)

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WASHINGTON, March 2 - Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said today that Congress must not balance the budget by cutting programs for working families after giving tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires.

"At a time when the gap between the rich and everyone else is wider than it has been in decades, it would be wrong to balance the budget on the backs of people already suffering from the recession who are receiving Social Security, enrolled in Head Start or depend on home heating assistance," Sanders said.

House Republicans last month rammed through a bill that would cut this year's budget by more than $60 billion. That bill would:

  • Cut $1.1 billion from Head Start depriving services for 218,000 children.
  • Cut $1.3 billion for Social Security delaying benefits for 500,000 Americans.
  • Slash $1.3 billion from community health centers taking primary health care from 11 million patients.
  • Reduce or eliminate Pell Grants for 9.4 million low-income college students.
  • Cut $405 million from Community Services Block Grants affecting 20 million seniors, families with children and the disabled.
  • End job training and other employment services for 8 million Americans.

Over Sanders' objections, Congress late last year extended tax breaks for the top 2 percent of Americans who now pay the lowest tax rates in decades. "It is time to ask the wealthy to start paying their fair share," Sanders said.

A member of the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders also noted that today's $14 trillion national debt was driven up by tax breaks for the wealthy, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a Wall Street bailout and a prescription drug program drafted by pharmaceutical companies.

You can support BuzzFlash and Truthout by getting a copy of the extraordinary Bernie Sanders' "Filibuster" speech in book form by clicking here. (Minimum contribution applies.)

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Mother Jones says it has confirmed that a phone call from a well-known progressive writer is for real, and that Scott Walker believed that he was talking to one of the Koch brothers.

In reading the transcript, Walker comes off as a deceitful, delusional Koch brothers puppet who thinks that he is having a frank conversation with one of his oligarchical mafia bosses.

The David Koch impersonator is Ian Murphy of "The Beast," which Matt Taibbi co-founded.

We'll defer to the blog Plunderbund for some of the alleged transcript, which again Mother Jones has said is confirmed as authentic by the office of the Wisconsin Governor:

At another point he [Scott Walker] reveals a key strategy in duping Democratic legislators into unwittingly creating a quorum by coming to the table to negotiate when Walker has no intentions of doing so:

I would be willing to sit down and talk to him, the assembly Democrat leader, plus the other two Republican leaders—talk, not negotiate and listen to what they have to say if they will in turn—but I’ll only do it if all 14 of them will come back and sit down in the state assembly. They can recess it… the reason for that, we’re verifying it this afternoon, legally, we believe, once they’ve gone into session, they don’t physically have to be there. If they’re actually in session for that day, and they take a recess, the 19 Senate Republicans could then go into action and they’d have quorum because it’s turned out that way. So we’re double checking that. If you heard I was going to talk to them that’s the only reason why. We’d only do it if they came back to the capitol with all 14 of them. My sense is, hell. I’ll talk. If they want to yell at me for an hour, I’m used to that. I can deal with that. But I’m not negotiating.

There are several other gems, including Walker seemingly committing ethics violations by accepting what the fake Koch calls “showing a good time in Cali”. He also signs off with “thanks a million”:

Koch: [Laughs] Well, I tell you what, Scott: once you crush these bastards I’ll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.

Walker: All right, that would be outstanding. [*** Ethical violation much? ***] Thanks for all the support…it’s all about getting our freedoms back…

Koch: Absolutely. And, you know, we have a little bit of a vested interest as well. [Laughs]

Walker: [Blah] Thanks a million!

Koch: Bye-bye!

Walker: Bye!

You can go to the source for the audio of the call

All BuzzFlash at Truthout has to add is Bye-Bye, Scott!

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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker knows how to kill jobs.

He's already rejected government stimulus funds to build a high-speed rail between Madison and Milwaukee, a project that would have created thousands of jobs – and reduced the state's dependencies on fossil fuels.

Walker isn't stopping there. It's well known he is in the business of lopping off the public workforce who provide services to Wisconsin residents.

But he's also against virtually any form of alternative energy that would reduce what Wisconsin residents pay for energy, thus imposing a virtual tax by perpetuating a dependency on increasingly costly fossil fuels.

Furthermore, he is killing jobs in a growth industry: renewable energy.

As the “Milwaukee Examiner” reports:

Wisconsin imports all its coal and oil, yet has the potential to produce all its energy using renewable resources. Scott Walker continues to chase away cleaner energy options. Firmly entrenched in the paradigms of fossil-fuel based automotive transportation,  he single-handedly killed high-speed rail between Milwaukee and Madison.  Now Walker is setting his sights on killing wind-energy and has has proposed legislation would require wind turbines to be constructed with a 1,800-foot setback from neighboring property lines.

In response, Illinois Wind Energy Association (IWEA) invited wind power developers working in Wisconsin to focus their efforts on Illinois, where Governor Pat Quinn and the Illinois General Assembly have worked to streamline regulations for the wind energy business.

How many jobs and how much money is Scott Walker denying the people of Wisconsin? Well the “Examiner” takes a crack at how a modest wind power program would benefit Illinois, which will reap the advantage of Walker's job-killing actions:

According to a recent study by Illinois State University, the first 1,848 megawatts of wind capacity in Illinois:

  • Support local economies by generating $18 million in annual property taxes

  • Generate $8.3 million annually in extra income for Illinois landowners who lease their land to wind farm developers

  • Created approximately 9,968 full-time equivalent jobs during construction periods with a total payroll of over $509 million

  • Support approximately 494 permanent jobs in rural Illinois areas with a total annual payroll of over $25 million

Wisconsin's dependence on fossil fuels is one of the highest and most costly in the US. As the “Examiner” details, “Wisconsin spends about $16 billion on imported energy – oil, natural gas and coal – coal accounted for $853 million, the 12th largest amount according to the report released in 2010.

Scott Walker isn't just about busting the back of unions and enriching the likes of the Koch Brothers: he's about killing jobs in Wisconsin and imposing a virtual tax on fossil fuels by trampling on renewable energy projects.


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Next time you see some news footage of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, check out the flames coming from his pants on fire.

That's because the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (MJS) examined Walker's recent mind-boggling claim that "collective bargaining is fully intact" in his legislation that has drawn as many as 70,000 pro-union protesters to Madison. And what the MJS found was that Walker flunked the truth-o-meter test.

In fact, he not only flunked, he excelled in lying. According to the MJS, "To now say now say collective bargaining would remain 'fully intact' is not just false, it's ridiculously false."

Walker seems either ignorant or willfully deceptive as to the difference between collective bargaining and civil service regulations, conflating the two for the purposes of trying to break the unions but denying that he is trying to achieve that very goal which makes unions a source of protection for labor: collective bargaining.

As the MJS noted in its "PolitiFact" analysis:

If Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker isn't trying to strip most collective bargaining rights from public employees, then why do workers keep pouring into Madison by the thousands to demonstrate against him?

Many state, local government and public school employees -- including those represented by the largest state workers union -- have said they would be willing to pay more for pensions and health insurance, as called for in a budget-repair bill introduced by Walker.

But the workers continue to protest provisions in the bill that would restrict most public employee unions to bargaining only over wages, and then only within caps.

It's the central issue in the protests, which have drawn national attention.

And yet on the morning of Feb. 18, 2011 -- a day after Democratic state senators fled to Illinois to prevent a vote on the bill -- Walker made a startling declaration in a Milwaukee radio interview.

That startling and whopper of a lie statement was Walker asserting that his bill to crush public unions would leave "collective bargaining ... fully intact."

A Reuters article summarizes the basics of Walker's anti-union bill:

* Walker wants to limit collective bargaining to the issue of wages, and cap wage increases to the rate of inflation, with a voter referendum needed for larger increases.

* Walker's proposal would also prohibit employer collection of union dues and members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay dues. Contracts would be limited to one year, and collective bargaining units would have to take annual votes to maintain certification as a union.

* Walker said collective bargaining takes too long and the cuts need to be made immediately. He said the alternative is layoffs of more than 10,000 workers.

* Certain employees, including local law enforcement and fire employees, would be exempt from the collective bargaining changes.

So, the only purpose of any public union (with the exception of police and fire unions) would be to negotiate salaries, and then only up to the rate of inflation, which is probably what the workers would receive anyway. In essence, the public union ceases to exist as any sort of entity that would protect workers' rights, ensure healthy working conditions, and negotiate benefits. It would be a front organization, like in the old Soviet Union, just there to be subject to executive branch directives and to trot out for purposes of partisan political purposes, a Potemkin hollow entity with no powers.

As BuzzFlash revealed yesterday, Scott Walker was anything but transparent when it came to excessive pay raises for his political cronies on his Milwaukee County staff.

And now his pants are on fire over lies on collective bargaining and union busting.

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The following is a February 10th media release from the office of Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin):

Saying she wanted to force her Republican colleagues to "focus on jobs and not on restricting women's rights," Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) today attempted to amend an extreme measure she opposes that would limit a woman's rights and endanger her health.

In a House Health Subcommittee mark-up Friday, Baldwin offered an amendment to the Republican-sponsored H.R. 358, the "Protect Life Act," so that the bill could not take effect if it increased taxes on individuals or small businesses.

To shine a light on Republicans' hypocrisy, Baldwin told her colleagues, "Despite promises from the new majority that this Congress would focus on creating jobs and bolstering the economy, this bill that we are considering today fails to deliver this promise.  In fact, this bill could further exacerbate the problem by causing millions of vulnerable Americans and small businesses to face a tax increase...If there's one message I've heard loud and clear from my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, it's that tax hikes result in jobs lost."

Ruling it non-germane, Republicans avoided a vote on Baldwin's amendment and passed the bill that would cut off millions of women from the private health care they already have and limit the ability of a woman to get the care she needs, even if the result is a serious permanent health condition that could shorten her life.

This intrusive legislation would also allow public hospitals to refuse to take the steps necessary to save a woman's life and allow states to deny Medicaid coverage to prevent life-long disabilities.  And, it would give insurance companies more power over what women can and cannot do with their own health care dollars.

Calling the measure "extreme, disrespectful to women, and intrusive," Baldwin told her colleagues, "Enough is enough.  It's time for the Republican majority to respect women's choices and focus on restoring our economy."

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5 February 2011, Geneva - Just days before George W. Bush's scheduled arrival to Geneva, the former United States President decided to cancel his trip. The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) sent the following statement:

"CCR, with the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), have spent weeks preparing a 2,500 page torture case against Bush that would have been filed on Monday, February 7 - the anniversary of the day, nine years ago, when Bush decided the Geneva Conventions didn't apply to 'enemy combatants.' Bush was due to be in Geneva on the 12th, and his presence on Swiss territory is required for the prosecutor to take action.

"The complaint, brought under the Convention Against Torture with the support of 50 NGOs, two former UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture and two Nobel Prize winners, was on behalf of two torture victims, one who is still at Guantánamo.

"Whatever Bush or his hosts say, we have no doubt he cancelled his trip to avoid our case. The message from civil society is clear - If you're a torturer, be careful in your travel plans. It's a slow process for accountability, but we keep going."

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WASHINGTON, Feb. 2 - In a report prepared for Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Department of Defense disclosed that it paid $285 billion over a three-year span to hundreds of military contractors that defrauded the Pentagon during the same period.

"With the country running a $14 trillion national debt, my goal is to provide as much transparency as possible about what is happening with taxpayer money," said Sanders (I-Vt.). "The sad truth is that virtually all of the major defense contractors in this country for years have been engaged in systemic fraudulent behavior, while receiving hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money."

The preliminary report detailed how the Pentagon spent $270 billion from 2007 to 2009 on 91 contractors involved in civil fraud cases that resulted in judgments of more than $1 million. Another $682 million went to 30 contractors convicted of hard-core criminal fraud in the same three-year period. Billions more went to firms that had been suspended or debarred by the Pentagon for misusing taxpayer dollars.

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Military steps up retaliation against accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower with arbitrary "suicide watch," followed by detainment of approved visitor

QUANTICO, VA, 23 January 2011 -- Military officials at Marine Corps Base Quantico today increased the isolation of accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning by detaining Manning's friend and regular visitor David House at the base entrance until visiting hours were over. House was accompanied by Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake.com, a website that has collected 42,000 signatures on a petition calling for improvements to the conditions of Manning's detention, which constitute extreme and illegal pre-trial punishment.

"The Bradley Manning Support Network is dismayed that Brad was denied contact with his only regular visitor besides his attorney," founder Mike Gogulski stated. "Immediately following a rally by more than 150 supporters at Quantico last week, Brad was put on suicide watch for two days for reasons his counsel could only conclude were punitive. He was stripped of all of his clothing except his boxer shorts and his glasses were taken away. It seems to me that the Marine command is now reacting in the worst possible way to rising pressure on them."

David House has been making regular trips from his home in the Boston area to visit Manning at the Marine Corps brig since he was transferred there from Kuwait last summer. While detained at the base gate, House posted to Twitter that "one of the many MPs around the car says his orders to stop us come from on high." House and Hamsher were held on entry to the base for nearly the entire period of visiting hours, repeatedly demanded to provide information and documents the MPs already had, and threatened with arrest. Hamsher's car was towed away under the pretext that she lacked proof of insurance, despite having presented a digital copy.

At Firedoglake.com, Hamsher wrote: "There is no doubt in my mind that the primary objective of everything that happened today was to keep Bradley Manning from having the company of his only remaining visitor."

"This is a bizarre action by the Marines. I think they see the growing support for Bradley Manning, they see more and more people realizing that he is being treated unfairly, and that as the facts of the case come out more and more people see that he is a patriot and not a traitor," said Kevin Zeese, Director of Voters for Peace and member of the Bradley Manning Support Network's steering committee.

In a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week, Amnesty International stated

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