With the Republican Party sweep of the US Senate and its further major gains in the US House of Representatives in the recent USA midterm elections, the Republican Party and its radical right Teaparty faction are poised to shift the USA political landscape in 2015 even further to the right. The primary goal in the process is to deliver even more for corporate America than during the previous six years, 2009-2014.
The Corporate Agenda 2009-2014
And what did Corporate America get from the Democrats, Obama, and Republicans during the first six years, 2009-2014?
Bankers and big time investors got a $14 trillion bailout by the US central bank, the Federal Reserve. That multi-trillion dollar virtually ‘free money’ injection produced record profits, stock & bond market capital gains, record corporate dividend payouts & stock buybacks, and the greatest surge in income—95% of all net income gains since 2009—for the wealthiest 1% population in all of US recorded history.
Non-bank multinational corporations got more bilateral free trade agreements, protections for their intellectual property and patents from foreign competition, five years of low dollar exchange rates to boost their exports, permission to continue to leave more than $2 trillion in profits untaxed in their offshore subsidiaries, and a convenient blind eye by Congress and Obama to proliferating offshore tax shelters, tax inversions, and tax avoidance amounting to trillions of dollars.
US businesses and wealthy investors in general got more than $5 trillion in tax cuts passed in 2009, 2010, and again in 2012 for the next ten years.
Oil and energy companies got a green light to frack gas and oil without interference throughout the USA, a free hand to dump coal ash and chemicals in US rivers at will poisoning US drinking water supplies for countless local communities, and permission to continue to emit thousands of additional tons of dangerous metals into the US atmosphere that continues to cause an epidemic of various human nervous system diseases and disorders.
The Pentagon and US defense companies got to spend trillions more in war contracts from Afghanistan to North Africa, and now even more on the horizon with the new US military ‘pivot’ to Asia underway.
Finance capitalists got a phony banking regulation bill called the Dodd-Frank Act, that has been steadily picked apart for the past four years, and is generally regarded as a joke so far as banking regulation is concerned.
The insurance companies and big pharmaceutical companies got their ‘Affordable Care Act’ (aka ‘Obamacare’), which ensured them tens of billions of dollars of new revenue annually—a law which should be more accurately renamed the ‘Health Insurance Companies Subsidy Act’.
The Neocons got to deepen their base in the US State Department (thanks in large part to Hillary Clinton) and other US agencies, and to push the USA deeper into conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, and further toward a possible conflict with Iran, while continuing to move NATO toward more direct confrontation with Russia.
Numerous environmental and Immigration initiatives were successfully blocked and prevented whenever and wherever proposed in Congress and regulator agencies.
Union workers saw their pensions severely undermined, their wages stagnate and decline, full time and permanent jobs replaced with part time and temp jobs, their share of healthcare costs rise, and their right to join and have unions blocked at the federal level and rolled back at the state level.
Simultaneously, voting rights and basic civil liberties of American citizens were progressively chipped away at the margins in dozens of US states; journalists and government corruption whistleblowers were hounded, harassed, and indicted by Federal and State attorneys general alike: police militarization and military tactics against US citizens became common practice; and spying and electronic surveillance on innocent US citizens were taken to new extremes. Most Americans today are not even aware of the extent to which their democracy has been restricted and dismantled under the Democratic party controlled Congress of 2009-10, the joint Democratic-Republican Congress of 2011-14, and the Obama administration.
And now all that is about to get worse!
The New Congress’s Corporate Agenda, 2015-2017
As the dust settles on the recent midterm elections, the outlines of a new strategic offensive by Republicans and the right wing in the USA is beginning to emerge. A new list of legislative initiatives are taking form in the remaining months of 2014, both at the Congressional and the State legislative levels.
The new pro-Corporate/anti-citizen legislative offensive in many cases is not really so new. It consists, to a large degree, of resurrected policies of the George W. Bush years, reformulated and recast in new ideological appeals, representing ‘old wine in new bottles’. But where the Republicans and their right wing Teaparty faction (together with a number of ‘blue dog’, i.e. pro-Republican policy, Democrats in Congress), were able to block anything remotely progressive legislative initiatives during the past six years, they now plan to go on the offensive. And where they were successful in pushing their agenda despite the Democratic Party’s control of both houses of Congress the first two years (2009-10), and that party’s control of the Senate during the next four years (2010-14), the fully Republican controlled Congress plans now to accelerate past efforts and to deliver even more generously for corporations, for the pentagon, and for neocons in the next two years, 2015-16.
The following is a ‘short list’ of the more important new initiatives now in development, in anticipation of a 2015 new offensive legislative launch, by the new Republican-right US Congress and their roughly two-thirds control of states in the USA:
1. More Corporate Tax Cuts (tax rates, inversions, loopholes)
2. Fast Track Global Free Trade Agreements in Asia and Europe (TPP, TTIP, TAFT)
3. Environmental Rollbacks (XL pipeline, industrial plant emissions/EPA, USA-China)
4. Affordable Care Act Revisions (cost shifts to consumers, mandates, & Medicaid ‘reform’)
5. Financial Regulation (bank capital requirements, living wills, limits on SEC actions)
6. Immigration Reform (more police, border fences, no ‘Dream Act’ or path to citizenship.
7. Syria-ISIL-Iraq (more US weapons and ‘boots’ on the ground in de-facto 3rd War in Iraq)
8. Ukraine (more military aid, advisers, US special ops, & involvement in Ukraine)
9. Russia (more sanctions by Europe, NATO expansion into Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova)
10. More freedom of action to NSA and other government spying-surveillance on citizens
A brief description of each of the above new Republican-Right legislative initiatives in the wings, that will begin to materialize in late 2014 and into 2015 are:
1. Corporate Tax Cuts
Both Republicans and Obama have been on record since 2011 in favor of cutting the top corporate tax rate from current 35% to 26%-28%. Contrary to the US business media claims, US corporations pay an ‘effective’ tax rate of an average of 12.6% in the USA, and barely 2% globally. Nevertheless, at the top of the new agenda in the Republican Congress will be passage of massive further corporate tax cuts, in particular favorable to multinational corporations. This passage will be given ‘cover’ in the form of a revision of the general USA tax code and by claims of select loophole closings that will look good on paper but are negated elsewhere in a comprehensive new omnibus tax bill. Token efforts by the Obama administration to address runaway corporate ‘tax inversions’ will be wrapped into the legislation but will allow much of this, and other, global tax avoidance schemes to continue.
2. Global Free Trade Agreements
A second Republican Congressional priority will be the acceleration of negotiations on new global free trade agreements. Both Republicans and Obama, and most Democrats in Congress, are ardent proponents of the Transpacific Free Trade treaty, as well as the similar treaty negotiations underway with Europe. The Republican Congress will act to ensure ‘fast track’ negotiations on TPP and other global free trade agreements.
3. Environmental Rollbacks
Efforts to pass the XL pipeline have repeatedly succeeded by wide margins in the US House of Representatives. A recent vote in the Senate was barely averted by one vote, with 59 senators approving passage. But that is not a victory. Republicans plan to attach the proposal to legislation Obama will have to pass, such as government funding for another year. Or, if he vetoes XL pipeline, to another legislative bill he can’t or won’t veto. Obama and Democrats can then claim they ‘did all they can’, and let it pass. The XL pipeline will result in one of the world’s largest carbon pollution projects, the Canada tar sands, to expand—leading to CO2 pollution levels experts like former NASA scientist, James Hansen, has described as ‘game over’ for global attempts to check climate change and global warming. Other priority rollbacks of the new Republican Congress will include de-funding the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and preventing its recent rules designed to lower industrial utility and plant gas emissions in the USA from being implemented. Expect more companies to be allowed to spill coal ash and chemicals in rivers without state legislative interference, under the new Congress. The new Congress will also aggressively attack recent USA-China agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and try to block any follow up action by the USA coming out of the April 2015 Paris conference on climate change.
4. Affordable Care Act (Obamacare rollbacks)
New Republic strategies will attack the ACA at the margins instead of voting for its repeal. These include exempting states without their own health insurance exchanges from complying with the ACA, thus preventing low income citizens from getting federal reimbursement for health insurance costs, once the US Supreme Court soon approves the same. Exempting medical equipment companies from paying any tax to support the program. Broadening exemptions for small businesses from the Act by redefining part time employment. Extending the time for businesses to comply with mandates to 2016. And reducing Medicaid coverage.
5. Financial Deregulation (Dodd-Frank Act rollbacks)
The piecemeal dissembling of the Act will continue and accelerate. Provisions designed to require banks to maintain a minimum of capital on hand in the event of a financial crisis will be reduced. Bank ‘living wills’ that require a plan by banks if they go out of business will be weakened. More exemptions of financial institutions from opaque derivatives trading will occur. More restrictions will be imposed on the Consumer Protection Agency provision of the Act. And current efforts by the US agency, the Securities & Exchange Commission, SEC, will be scaled back by Congress.
6. Immigration Reform
Obama’s recent executive action affecting approximately 5 million of the 11 million undocumented workers in the USA revealed nothing new or significant. It announced the president will somehow ‘hold off’ on further deporting immigrants at the record rate in recent years. Obama has deported more immigrants than any other president in US history: 438,000 in 2013, which was 50,000 more than the year previous, and 30,000 more than the year before that. In his presidency, more than 2 million have been deported, many of which represent the breaking up of families. In exchange for slowing the rate of deportations, the 5 million covered by his executive action will not get amnesty or citizen rights, but will ‘go to the back of the line’ to apply for the same only after they pay some kind of ‘fine’ and ‘back taxes’. But all that is possible only if they register with the government. And registration, under existing law, will require their employers to discharge them in the meantime. Obama’s strategy is to provoke the US Congress to pass some kind of legislation, any kind, which he will then sign and declare ‘that’s the best I can get’, in a classic Bill Clinton ‘triangulation’ policy maneuver. Should the Republican Congress pass anything, it will be legislation that calls for more police and border securing, falsely labeled an ‘immigration bill’. Should Obama veto such a bill, the Republican Congress will almost certainly pass it over his veto, either independently or as a provision included in other legislation. Immigration reform in the USA will remain a public relations ‘shell game’ between the Republican Congress and Obama administration, more concerned with 2016 elections than true immigration reform.
7. Syria, ISIL, Iraq, Afghanistan
A sharp increase in funding by the new Republican Congress for anti-Assad groups in Syria is a foregone conclusion in 2015. With the active support of the Pentagon and US generals, Congress will aggressively push Obama toward more direct involvement in fighting ISIL. That means more US combat forces on the ground in Iraq and the start of a potential 3rd Iraq (ISIL) war. An indicator of Congress and Obama’s agreement to commit new ground troops in the middle east is the announcement of the past week that the USA will keep troops in Afghanistan longer than promised earlier this year. Drone technology, contracts, and usage will expand significantly. The Republican Congress will increase USA defense and war spending, both for the middle east conflicts and to finance naval and air force spending for the USA ‘pivot’ to Asia (i.e. China).
8. Ukraine Intervention
The Republican Congress will also allocate more funding for Ukraine’s Poroshenko government, earmarked primarily for military aid, US military weapons purchases, and provide for more US military advisers on the ground in Ukraine and US special ops and training operations. Neocons will do all they can at the political-diplomatic level to prevent accommodations between Europe and Russia over the Ukraine, and with the support of the Republican Congress will push for Ukraine government new military offensives in the breakaway eastern regions, to try to provoke further direct Russian intervention.
9. Russia Sanctions & Confrontation
Congressional initiatives will more aggressively call for more direct and expanded sanctions on Russia, and provide incentives for Europe to abandon its current reluctance to increase sanctions. Congressional calls for more funding of NATO exercises and expansion in eastern Europe will also occur, as well as Congressional resolutions supporting NATO membership for Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Congress will lift limits on exports of US natural gas and oil to European economies and pass other measures to incent Europe to break from its economic dependence on Russian gas, Germany in particular, and to purchase USA excess natural gas and oil distillates.
10. NSA, Government Spying and Surveillance, & Police Militarization
The new Republican Congress will check and stall efforts underway to date to establish controls on domestic spying of US citizens. The recent vote in the US Senate to kill a pending bill proposed to place limits on the NSA’s unchecked spying on US citizens is just the beginning of a series of subsequent similar legislative acts. The Republican Congress will support Obama administration continuing efforts to hound, harass, and indict journalists and will refuse to check the various growing restrictions on 1st amendment rights of citizens. The Republican Congress will support more military-like equipment funding to US police departments and thus support the growing trend toward police militarization in the USA.
With an approximate 60 vote margin in favor of Republicans now in the House of Representatives and 54 virtually guaranteed Republican votes in the Senate, the Republicans are clearly in the legislative ‘drivers seat’, as they say, in 2015-16. At least a half dozen ‘blue dog’ Democrats in the Senate will often join them, providing a filibuster in 2015 and veto proof Senate and House majority.
The past six years of legislative ‘gridlock’ between the Obama administration and Republicans in Congress will begin to dissolve, albeit slowly, and not in a normal sense of compromise. The Republican Congress will drive its new pro-corporate offensive on domestic and international issues even more aggressively than had the Republican majority in the US House of Representatives, 2010-2014. The new ‘compromises’ will take the form of the Obama administration agreeing to Congressional Republican proposals. The Republican Congress will want to appear it is ‘governing’, in anticipation of the 2016 national elections; while Obama will ‘triangulate’, in classic Clintonian fashion, to achieve what little he can to show a ‘legacy’ of some kind. But the legislative compromise will be a compromise shifted ‘strongly to the right’. Big gainers will be corporate America, investors, bankers, defense companies and their Neocon friends; losers will continue to be workers’ decent paying jobs, healthcare, pensions, their unions, immigrants’ rights, the environment, and the incomes of average consumer households in the USA.
Jack Rasmus is the author of ‘Epic Recession: Prelude to Global Depression’, 2010, and ‘Obama’s Economy’, 2012, both published by Pluto Press; and the forthcoming ‘Transitions to Global Depression’, by Clarity Press, 2015. His website is www.kyklosproductions.com and blog, jackrasmus.com.