Paula Hendricks

Author ~:~ Writer ~:~ Book Designer ~:~ Book Producer

What the next president can do at little cost

with 4 comments

Given the constraints the bailouts and the economy will have on the new president, it seems that we should look at, first, what we can do that will cost no (or little) money. Please share other ideas!

  • Release the scientists (let them communicate with other scientists, let them speak — i.e. Jim Hansen of NASA on climate change)
  • Review current rules and regulations and start enforcing the ones that fit our vision
    • FDA
    • EPA
    • Fed Reserve
  • Make all government transactions more transparent and more understandable

  • Plan to use the bully pulpit to stake our positions, challenge the public, open our arms, speak to the world
  • Review all subsidies; identify those that need to be re-focused; enforce oversight that already exists; make transparent; determine how to re-focus on future vision
    • Auto industry
    • Ethanol / corn industry
    • ADM, farm,
    • Oil industry (i.e. keep some subsidies but only if they are used for green/ future)
  • Identify those in the pentagon who can look forward to helping us figure out how to use our military most effectively, as last resort, not first resort
  • Begin legal process to close loopholes
    • Enron
  • Hire Al Gore as energy / environment/ climate czar (across departments and agencies) [cabinet level position]
  • Ask for reports and assessment from professional bureaucracies on how to get us back on track
  • Tell Americans and the world the truth
    • Economy
    • Global interconnectedness
    • Climate change
    • Education
    • Health care
    • Price of energy
  • Ask us to do something specific
  • Talk to the mayors and governors who are way ahead of the Federal government on critical issues: energy, climate, environment, health care, social justice – ask for their advice on how to best support them and get our of their way (beyond money)
    • CA
    • NY
    • WA
    • OR
    • Seattle driven commitment (To date, 884 U.S. mayors have signed the Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement to meet the Kyoto Protocol standards by 2012 per Washington Post 10/7/08 – If They Came Here… Tuesday, October 7, 2008; Page A21)
  • Ask for a panel / study of prisons and how to reduce % of our populations that is in prison
  • Ask for a symposium of far left and far right to identify common ground on major issues
  • Close Guantanamo
  • Review progress on Katrina
  • Review and recommend health care system that focuses on prevention rather than disease
  • Recommend new cars and rental cars don’t have headlights on during the day
  • Recommend that cities and buildings review and reduce light pollution
  • Review subsidies and tax rates and refocus benefits for companies that hire in the US and keep jobs in the US
  • Review economic aid to other countries to make sure that we are getting our fair share of aid, recommend reductions especially if they are not focused on education and self-sustainability (see recent article about Indian programs)
  • Review subsidies and tax policy for charities that provide no benefit to US (all offshore efforts, especially the big ones like Gates / Buffet)
  • Review and recommend compensation policies – and work it through tax benefits – to re-balance workers and executive pay – so economy will function better – if economy is based on shopping, we need more shoppers out of debt
  • Approve CA + NY + 15 other states resetting auto emissions standards – Fed so far has resisted.
  • Identify and reward companies that are leading in global warming, renewable energy, Slow Food, LEED initiatives.


4 Responses

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  1. Just wanted to say HI. I found your blog a few days ago on Technorati and have been reading it over the past few days.

    Mike Harmon

    October 7, 2008 at 4:37 pm

  2. Require the auto companies to match the mpg that is already achieved in Europe in 5 years- avg 40-50 range.
    Close the tax loophole that allows corporations to open a po box in Caymens, etc and avoid paying taxes
    Raise the minimum wage (higher wages, more taxes collected)
    Review all regulatory changes of the last 8 years and change most of them back.

    the following is a summary of 3 books on the indirect cost to taxpayers due oil companies.
    The price at the gas pump is only a portion of the cost to taxpayers for oil. Three books written to address other issues reveal within their pages the extent to which oil companies are costing taxpayers. U.S. tax, agriculture, and foreign policies directly and indirectly subsidize oil companies.

    The first subsidy is the billions spent in foreign aid through the U.N. International Money Fund and the US Agency of International Development. The process that uses taxpayer dollars to fund oil projects is a brilliant device. Under the guise of helping the citizens of an undeveloped country, the money was used for projects necessary for the oil companies to drill for oil. Companies like Bechtel and Halliburton convince political leaders in poor countries to obtain foreign aid or to go into debt for economic development projects. Those U.S. companies were hired to complete the projects that often are necessary to enable U.S. oil companies to drill for oil and gas. For instance, Columbia went into debt to build a dam and highways that enabled the oil companies to drill oil. The Natives who fought the invasion of their land were called communists, terrorists, and drug traffickers.

    Ecuador went into debt for similar projects. The government debt in Ecuador increased from $240 million to $16 billion during the “oil boom.” Of each $100 of oil, $75 went to oil companies and $22.50 went to pay the debt and the military to protect U.S. companies. Only $2.50 went to pay for local education and other social services in the foreign country. Often U.S. taxpayers are not paid back on the loans that actually benefit oil and other companies, and not the intended foreign countries. During the 35-year Ecuadorian “oil boom” the poverty level changed from 50% to 70%.

    The second subsidy is an old tool used by chemical companies but a new tool used by oil companies – ethanol. In 1970 the agricultural loan program to farmers was replaced by a direct payment. Rather than farmers paying back loans with profits made in the good years, farmers are guaranteed (through the use of taxpayers’ money) a minimum price for each unit produced. The program became an incentive to grow more corn which lowers the price further. In 2005 a bushel of corn costs $2.50 to grow and the market rate was $1.45 so in 2005 taxpayers paid $1.05 per bushel to make up the difference. Meanwhile, oil and chemical companies like Cargill and Archer Daniel Midlands buy the corn for $1.45. Farmers are “held harmless” and taxpayers pay a total of $19 billion in farm subsidies.

    The third category of subsidies is found in U.S. tax policies. Some tax avoidances are simple and other methods are often as convoluted as a jig saw puzzle. The few examples below are the tax avoidance methods enjoyed by all corporations and executives, including oil companies.

    The first tax subsidy is simple. An oil company sells $100 worth of oil, often drilled on public lands, but pays taxes as if it were $87.50 due to the oil depletion allowance. The taxes they don’t pay are paid by small businesses and the rest of us.

    Another dodge is when oil profits jump, oil companies buy oil stock from the stock market, and then claim it as a business expense, which reduces their income tax. Then when the stock prices fall the companies sell the stocks for the reduced price and take the stocks as a tax loss, again reducing their tax bill.

    Another tax avoidance scheme is to move the corporate headquarters to a country like Cayman Islands that doesn’t have an income tax system. The “headquarters” can legally be a post office box. All the management and operation remains as “subsidiaries” in the U.S. receiving the benefits of being located in the U.S while the company is in the Cayman Islands paying no taxes. The subsidiaries pay millions of dollars to the corporate “headquarters” for intellectual property, such as logos, and then deduct the payments as business expenses. Halliburton has been given at least $7 billion of taxpayers’ money to rebuild Iraq. Halliburton avoids paying tax on the profits by having 20 subsidiaries in the tax haven Cayman Islands.

    A more complex avoidance method is the use of shell companies. Using a shell corporation can turn profits into business expenses and avoid paying taxes on the profit. Chevron and Texaco formed a shell company, Caltex of Indonesia. To simplify this explanation, $100 increments are used. The government of Indonesia gave Caltex $227 worth of oil in exchange for an Indonesia “tax” of $127. Chevron and Texaco bought oil from Caltex (their own company) at the inflated price of $227. That allowed Chevron and Texaco to claim the $227 as an expense. Then the shell company Caltex claimed a “foreign tax credit” of $127 off their taxes. So Chevron, Texaco, and Caltex could claim a total of $327 in business expenses rather than the $127 in actual expenses. They avoided paying tax on $200.

    The overall shift in taxes to the rest of us can be seen from the fact that in 1999 corporate reports totaled $759 billion in profits to shareholders while only $154 billion income was reported to the IRS. A series of maneuvers allow companies to claim smaller profits for tax purposes. Small businesses and the rest of us take up the slack paying for the 80% of income that the corporations avoided paying.

    The average shareholders aren’t necessarily the beneficiaries of these and other tax avoidances. The U.S. now has the fewest citizens holding the greatest wealth held since 1929. To illustrate from 1970 to 2000, the U.S. average wage-earner experienced a 5 cents an hour wage increase while CEOs were given a $600 an hour pay raise. From 1970 to 2000, the bottom 90% (2000 – $80,148 and less) of citizen’s income has fallen (-22%) while the top 10% has increased by 412%.
    Much of the executives increased salaries and bonuses go untaxed. Large amounts are tax-deferred income that may not be paid even generations later. That is another set of tax policies that benefits the very wealthy and not addressed here.

    The stockholders pay for numerous free luxuries for executives that the rest of us would have to pay taxes on. One simple example involves corporate jets that are used by executives and their families, all tax (and expense) free. A free flight for personal reasons costs the executive only taxes on the price of a coach ticket. The rest of us pay tax on our income to buy the ticket as well as taxes on the price of a coach ticket. The airplane is claimed as a business expense by the corporation. Small businesses and the rest of us take up the slack of what the executives are avoiding paying.

    In addition the recent Bush “tax cuts” shift the tax burden from the wealthy to the middle class. By 2010 the share paid by the bottom 95% of people will increase while the top 5% share will fall. By 2010 people earning $50,000-$100,000 per year, on average will pay $21 per $100 earned while people earning one million dollars or more annually will pay $19 for each $100 of income. People earning $100,001-$200,000, per year, will pay an average of $27 tax on $100.

    Meanwhile a 1977 law forbids the IRS from investigating people with lavish life styles who report little income. And funding for IRS personnel was significantly decreased in 1998, reducing the number of forms the IRS has the ability to review for tax evasion.

    The last subsidy is an almost give-away of publicly-owned resources. Oil and lumber companies pay a low lease for oil and trees on public lands. The profits are not shared with taxpayers.

    In 2003 the U.S. debt was about $7 billion or $24,000 per U.S. citizen. In 2008 the debt has increased to $482 billion. The U.S. Treasury is short billions that found its way into oil corporations and their executives’ coffers through the above subsidies.

    What we pay at the pump isn’t our only cost.

    Sources: The Omnivore Dilemma by Michael Pollan; Perfectly Legal, David Cay Johnston; Confessions of a

    Jan Ramquist

    October 10, 2008 at 3:12 pm

  3. Hi, Paula

    That seems like a pretty comprehensive list. At first glance I wouldn’t add anything to it, but I might take something away, namely, the resommendation that new cars and rental cars not have their headlights on during the day. If that is supposed to be an energy-saving measure, I’m not sure it would matter. My understanding is that car lights run off the battery, and the battery is automatically recharged when the car is in motion. Unlike the a/c, using the lights, as I understand it, does not affect gas mileage. If the concern is light pollution, it might make some sense, but the incremental effect of having car lights on during daylight hours is probably not all that great. I don’t mean to nitpick — I’m just concerned that, if there’s one silly recommendation on the list, people might be inclined to dismiss the whole thing.

    Tim Loughman

    October 13, 2008 at 5:11 pm

  4. Paula, Great ideas! A few thoughts were jogged by reading yours:

    Regarding Your Suggestion:
    Ask for a panel / study of prisons and how to reduce % of our populations that is in prison

    Look into effective, character-building ways to give children other options than a future in prison. E.g., Venezuela’s 30-year successful experiment teaching children country-wide to play in a youth orchestra, “saving souls and saving lives.” See the DVD, “Tocar & Luchar,” available from Spiritual Cinema Circle.
    Regarding Your Suggestion:
    Review and recommend health care system that focuses on prevention rather than disease

    Engage alternative health practitioners to educate the public—could be via the Internet, inexpensively—about what real health is, and how we can engage with it, so that we no longer need expensive health care.

    For example, practitioners of Chinese medicine (acupuncturists, etc.) can come together with (a) Western medical doctors and (b) the public to show how the life force is enhanced, naturally, by certain ways of being.

    Chi Gung can be made widely known in schools (preschool through college), over the Internet, etc. Putting inexpensive PR into promoting what really sustains health. This is the experience of health I’m suggesting, not just more prescriptions for what to eat/not eat etc.

    Regarding Your Suggestion:
    Recommend new cars and rental cars don’t have headlights on during the day

    Make electric cars affordable to all. Give bank loans with good interest rates to purchase them. Provide consumer incentives for using low-emission gas cars. Make this affordable to middle-class and lower-class drivers. Take gas-driven cars in as trade toward purchase of above. Reconfigure these into hybrid cars. Train workers to do these adaptations. A win-win for workers and consumers and the earth.

    And my original suggestion:
    Set up listening circles around the country–in person, online, wherever possible. Engage volunteer facilitators to help people listen to each other. We all speak, but aren’t trained to listen. True listening brings about empathy and healing, and a wish to cooperate. Volunteers might be plentiful. They could be repaid by a certificate, or some such acknowledgment of their patriotic service.

    Naomi Rose

    October 16, 2008 at 5:03 pm

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