Published: Sunday 16 December 2012
The new FTC report will be voted on in the next few weeks, which will bring about big changes to the Internet, prohibiting the use of behavioral marketing techniques to track children without their parent’s consent.

Nowadays parents aren’t the only ones monitoring their children’s whereabouts. Several cellphone applications are collecting data about them while they’re online.  Many software companies, who develop the apps, gather personal information from a child’s cellphone without parental consent and sell it to third party advertisers and data brokers.  While the Center for Digital Democracy filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in August stating a violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1988, the government began their investigation of several companies on this basis.

 

From a child’s physical location to other such personal information including their friends’ names and numbers, these are just some of what these apps are collecting from children. But according to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection, Section 1302 states that “any person who operates a website located on the Internet or an online service and who collects or maintains personal information from or about the users of or visitors to such website or online service, or on whose behalf such information is collected or maintained, where such website or online service is operated for commercial purposes, including any person offering products or services for sale through that website or online service, involving commerce” from a person under the age of 13 is in violation of the law.

 

The FTC recently reported that of the 400 children apps, which the commission will not name, the privacy agreement failed to inform parents of the information that it was intending to collect and who they would share such information with. It went on to say that some of the apps included “questionable” advertisement and even links to social media platforms encouraging children ...

Published: Monday 19 November 2012
“A 2009 Kauffman Foundation study found that the great majority of entrepreneurs come from middle-class backgrounds, with less than 1 percent of all entrepreneurs coming from very rich or very poor backgrounds.”

The numbers reveal the deadening effects of inequality in our country, and confirm that tax avoidance, rather than a lack of middle-class initiative, is the cause. 

 

 

1. Only THREE PERCENT of the very rich are entrepreneurs.

 

According to both Market watch and economist Edward Wolff, over 90 percent of the assets owned by millionaires are held in a combination of low-risk investments (bonds and cash), personal business accounts, the stock market, and real estate. Only 3.6 percent of taxpayers in the top .1% were classified as entrepreneurs based on 2004 tax returns. A 2009 Kauffman Foundation study found that the great majority of entrepreneurs come from middle-class backgrounds, with less than 1 percent of all entrepreneurs coming from very rich or very poor backgrounds. 

 

 

2. Only FOUR OUT OF 150 countries have more wealth inequality than us.

 

In a world listing compiled by a reputable research team (which nevertheless prompted double-checking), the U.S. has greater wealth inequality than every measured country in the world except for Namibia, Zimbabwe, Denmark, and Switzerland. 

 

 

3. An ...

Published: Wednesday 10 October 2012
The group China Labor Watch says up to 4,000 Foxconn workers walked off the job in protest of new employee demands on hours and product quality.

As consumers worldwide flood Apple Stores to buy the new iPhone 5, we look at why thousands of Chinese workers at a key Apple manufacturing plant walked off the job last week. The group China Labor Watch says up to 4,000 Foxconn workers walked off the job in protest of new employee demands on hours and product quality. Foxconn initially denied that a strike was taking place, but later said a small number of workers had participated in a dispute that was quickly resolved. We're joined by Li Qiang, the founder and executive director of China Labor Watch.

Published: Thursday 23 August 2012
On Wednesday, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), charged with overseeing U.S. stock exchanges, approved rules on the implementation of two widely anticipated provisions of a broad financial reform package passed by the U.S. Congress in mid-2010.

 

 After a 16-month delay, a U.S. government regulator charged with investment oversight has voted on rules that will now govern U.S.-listed companies operating in the extractive industry as well as those that use minerals whose sale may fuel violence in other countries, particularly in central Africa.

On Wednesday, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), charged with overseeing U.S. stock exchanges, approved rules on the implementation of two widely anticipated provisions of a broad financial reform package passed by the U.S. Congress in mid-2010, known in part as Dodd-Frank.

“We have received significant public input on this rulemaking through the written comment process, which generated more than 400 letters,” SEC Chair Mary Schapiro announced Wednesday morning.

“In response, we incorporated many changes from the proposal that are designed to address concerns about the costs…The rules we are considering use the same process as proposed, but many of the mechanisms within the process have been modified ...

Published: Wednesday 8 August 2012
“The 10 companies include Wall Street banks like Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase, oil companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron, and tech companies like Apple, IBM, and Microsoft.”

America’s 10 most profitable corporations paid an average corporate income tax rate of just 9 percent in 2011, according to a study from financial site NerdWallet reported by the Huffington Post. The 10 companies include Wall Street banks like Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase, oil companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron, and tech companies like Apple, IBM, and Microsoft.

The two companies with the lowest tax rates were both oil companies. ExxonMobil paid $1.5 billion in taxes on $73.3 billion in earnings, a tax rate of 2 percent. Chevron’s tax rate was just 4 percent. None of the companies paid anywhere near the 35 percent top corporate tax rate, providing more evidence to debunk claims that America’s corporate tax rate is stunting economic growth and job creation (Despite the high marginal rate, American corporations pay one of the lowest effective corporate tax rates in the world).

The study also calculated the overall amount the companies owed in both domestic and foreign taxes. This includes deferred taxes that will, theoretically, be paid in the future, once the companies bring foreign profits back to the United States. Apple, for instance, avoided $2.4 billion in American taxes last year by utilizing offshore tax havens.

If Republicans have their way, however, those deferred taxes may never be paid. Switching to a territorial tax system, a policy leading Republicans have

Published: Thursday 19 July 2012
“Without a government that’s focused on more and better jobs, we’re left with global corporations that don’t give a damn.”

 

President Obama is slamming Mitt Romney for heading companies that were “pioneers in outsourcing U.S. jobs,” while Romney is accusing Obama of being “the real outsourcer-in-chief.”

These are the dog days of summer and the silly season of presidential campaigns. But can we get real, please?

The American economy has moved way beyond outsourcing abroad or even “in-sourcing.” Most big companies headquartered in America don’t send jobs overseas and don’t bring jobs here from abroad.

That’s because most are no longer really “American” companies. They’ve become global networks that design, make, buy, and sell things wherever around the world it’s most profitable for them to do so.

As an Apple executive told ...

Published: Monday 9 July 2012
Today’s young people are being drafted into an economic war that they don’t understand.

 

My own generation faced the Vietnam War. We were at risk of getting drafted, and then maimed or killed in an unwinnable battle against imagined evils.

 

Today's young people are being drafted into an economic war that they don't understand. It's a slowly waged, diabolical war that substitutes debt and underemployment for missing limbs and psychological disorders. The soldiers are college-age men and women who can't find jobs or pay tuition, and who are seduced into submission by the promise of eventual rewards. The Vietnamese jungle has turned into Wall Street.

 

For those of us who weren't particularly good activists in the 60s, age has widened our perspective, and the lack of opportunities for our children has given us a second chance to protest, to help make it clear how the leaders of my generation have abandoned the people they no longer need.

 

Young America, here's why you should be angry:

 

1. The Great WEALTH Transfer

 

-- 18- to 35-year-olds: Your median net worth has dropped 68% since 1984. It's now less than $4,000.

 

-- The Richest 1%: They tripled their share of income between 1980 and 2006, then took 93% of all the new income in the first year after the 2008 recession. Their median net worth is now over $5,000,000.

 

2. The Lack of JOBS: No one's hiring, so you have to "create your own job."

 

This from Michael Barone of the Washington Examiner: "The good news is that information technology provides the iPod/Facebook generation with the means to find work and create careers that build on their own personal talents and interests...creating your own ...

Published: Friday 1 June 2012
“There are things that can be done in the U.S., not just for the U.S. market but that can be exported for the world...On the assembly piece, could that be done in the U.S.? I hope so, again, one day.”

Last fall, we pondered whether Apple could start building iPads and iPhones in the U.S.  Our conclusion was, YES, Apple could indeed start assembling products in the U.S. 

Some key points:

1. Labor costs are not the key factor.  As Michele Nash-Hoff (President of Electro Fab) and Curtis Ellis (of the American Jobs Alliance) have explained, labor is a small part (probably less than 10 percent) of Apple’s cost of manufacturing, far less than capital equipment, and components.  With wages rising in China, and U.S. manufacturing workers actually being far more productive, the labor cost differential become very small.

2. Apple is the rare product that competes on quality, not price.  While it may or may not cost more in total to assemble iPads in the U.S., Apple is not competing against dozens of similar products.  And so, retail price is not the key criteria because consumers are already buying iPads due to their unique quality and attributes, not "low sticker price."

3. Thanks to high productivity and top quality, U.S. manufacturing offers its own cost-savings and benefits.  U.S. manufacturers are recognized as being the most productive, efficient, and safe in the world.  A state-of-the-art U.S. manufacturing facility would offer its own cost savings by virtue of its incredibly productive and streamlined assembly processes.

Okay, so why are we analyzing the Apple production process today?  Because Apple CEO Tim Cook was quoted this week at an All Things Digital Conference 

Published: Wednesday 30 May 2012
Published: Monday 7 May 2012
“The stock market has doubled since March 2009, while corporate profits and exports have surged to records.”

A remarkable story appeared in Newsweek recently, a celebration by author Daniel Gross of America's re-emergence as the strongest economy and best darn nation in the world. An underlying theme in the article, implicit in the grandiose descriptions of our post-recession growth, is that all American lives must be improving because of the magic of our "resilient and nimble private sector." The Newsweek reader might have been reminded of the wisdom of Goldman Sachs chairman Lloyd Blankfein: "Everybody should be, frankly, happy...the financial system led us into the crisis and it will lead us out."



It sure is nice to feel good about ourselves. But it's more important to be thorough with the facts. Only a small percentage of Americans have benefited from the economic resurgence. The people with money are congratulating themselves while remaining disdainfully isolated from the real world all around them.
 


The article starts with the prideful assertion that "The stock market has doubled since March 2009, while corporate profits and exports have surged to records." That's all good for about 1% of us. The Americans in this elite group captured a stunning 93% of the income gains in the first year of recovery.



The 'recovery' itself is largely a resumption of the pattern seen over the past twenty years, during which the richest 5% of Americans have steadily increased their already sizable (70% of the total) stock market holdings.



And how about those corporate profits? Something to be proud of? Here are the disturbing

Published: Tuesday 17 April 2012
Published: Thursday 12 April 2012
Published: Sunday 4 March 2012
“The traditional domain of industrial titans expanded as diverse groups created charitable forces of all stripes. But many nonprofits bloated by oversized assets and investments in new capacity narrowed previously innovative, high impact missions.”

“Go where the money is, ” said bank robber Willie Sutton. He could well have been advising nonprofits that target corporations flush in cash. Yet through the wrong partnerships nonprofits’ efficacy, reputation and goodwill is often looted while companies – who boost sales, gain new young customers, and burnish tarred legacies – make out like bandits.

 

The Occupy movement served as a stark reminder of the severe harm caused by Wall Street banks that collaborate closely with nonprofits. Recent ...

Published: Sunday 26 February 2012
“It is only a matter of time before the volume of intellectual output from China to the U.S. exceeds the flow in the opposite direction.”

As Apple’s stock continues to hit record highs and its sales and profit reports exceed all expectations, Steve Jobs’ reputation as an entrepreneurial genius grows ever larger. He succeeded in developing products that people around the world very much want to buy. In this sense, Jobs stands out from the mediocrities that run most corporations and collect huge pay checks in the process.

It may be some time before another innovator comes along who can match Steve Jobs record, but we constantly see companies developing new products, even if few will have the same impact as the iPod or iPad. The United States continues to be at the forefront in innovation, but this will likely not always be the case.  It is worth asking whether we should care. This requires a clear-eyed assessment of the benefits to the country provided by innovators like Jobs.

As the New York Times recently documented, Jobs deserves credit for developing products that people value, but it is less clear that he deserves much credit for creating jobs in the United States. Apple has long outsourced to China and other countries virtually all of its manufacturing operations. Apple has absolutely not been a boon for U.S. manufacturing workers.

Apple directly and indirectly employed tens of ...

Published: Saturday 25 February 2012
“The president’s proposal will require companies to pay a minimum corporate tax on all offshore profits, thus reducing the incentive for offshore production and parking profits in a tax haven.”

President Obama announced plans on Wednesday to reform the corporate tax code to make it simpler and fairer. The plan would reduce the top corporate tax rate substantially from 35 percent to 28 percent (25 percent for manufacturing) without increasing the deficit, a tall order indeed. Eliminating special interest tax breaks for business is an obvious quid pro quo for a lower tax rate and has the added benefits that it reduces the complexity and increases the fairness of the tax system. But this will not be sufficient.

To achieve a tax cut that is revenue neutral, the president has proposed eliminating three provisions in the tax code that create significant inequities and economic distortion. He proposes limiting the tax deductibility of interest, eliminating the special tax treatment of earnings of hedge fund and private equity managers, and reducing incentives for companies to offshore profits in tax havens.

Currently businesses can deduct interest payments on all of their debt no matter how highly leveraged they are. This leads companies to assume high debt-to-equity ratios not justified by business requirements. This makes companies vulnerable to financial distress in an economic downturn. A recent study of 2,156 highly leveraged companies found that a stunningly high 25 percent of them went bankrupt between 2007 and 2011. The tax deductibility of interest also encourages businesses to use complex financial instruments whose only purpose is to reduce the company's taxes. Finally, the disparate treatment of interest on debt and earnings retained by the corporation discriminates against ...

Published: Friday 17 February 2012
“In reality the multinational corporations prefer China’s state-sponsored model of capitalism, which assures them an endless supply of docile workers unprotected by those pesky unions and restrictive government regulations.”

Four decades ago Richard Nixon, a once famously hawkish Republican president, cut a deal with the Communist overlords of China to reshape the world. The result was a transformation of the global economy in ways that we are only now, with the sharp critiques of Apple’s China operation, beginning to fully comprehend.

At the heart of the deal was a rejection of the basic moral claim of both egalitarian socialism and free market capitalism, the rival ideologies of the Cold War, to empower the individual as the center of decision-making. Instead, the fate of the citizen would come to be determined by an alliance between huge multinational corporations and government elites with scant reference to the needs of ordinary working folk.

It was understood by both parties to this grand concord that monopoly capitalism could be constructed in China to be consistent with the continuance in power of a Communist hierarchy, just as in the West capitalism was consistent with the enrichment of an ostensibly democratic ruling class. Sharp income inequality, the bane of genuine reform movements bearing the names populist, socialist and democratic, came to be the defining mark of the new international order.

The current controversy over Apple’s treatment of its 700,000 foreign workers, mostly in China, is a manifestation of that cross-ideological betrayal. The ironies are ...

Published: Friday 17 February 2012
Low asset limits can induce low-income families who have assets slightly above the $2,000 threshold to spend them down to qualify for assistance.

In October, 2011 Slovenian-born philosopher, Slavoj Zizek, addressed a crowd of nearly four-hundred residents of Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. Zizek—revered as much for his irreverence as for his acuity—waxed poetic on the theme of social possibility. “On the one hand,” he said, “everything seems to be possible. You can travel to the moon, you can become immortal by biogenetics…but look at the field of society and economy…[and] there almost everything is considered impossible. You want to raise taxes by little bit for the rich. They tell you it’s impossible…You want more money for health care, they tell you [it’s] impossible…There’s something wrong in a world where you are promised to be immortal but cannot spend a little bit more for healthcare. Maybe we need to set our priorities straight here. We don’t want higher standard of living. We want a better standard of living.”

In a country that values convenience over wellness it’s rare to find enlightened social policies that can successfully discriminate between higher and better standards of living. SNAP is one.

Since 1964 the Food Stamp Program, presently known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), has assisted low-income families and individuals in meeting basic nutritional needs; last year alone the $78 billion program prevented nearly 5 million Americans from slipping into poverty.

Modernity promises us progress but not justice. Occasionally they collide, but often they diverge. Apple, for instance, is on pace to sell 50 million iPhones in the U.S. this year, a figure that’s roughly ...

Published: Wednesday 8 February 2012
“They can make iPhones and anything else right here in America — but they care more about their bottom lines than their country or their workers, and it’s time to call them on it.”

Early last year, during an intimate chat and chew dinner with some Silicon Valley high-tech barons, President Barack Obama posed a question to Steve Jobs, baron of the Apple empire: "What would it take to make iPhones in the United States?"

Good question! To rebuild our middle class, we need to put more people to work building more stuff in America, rather than shipping all that manufacturing off to China. Instead of answering, however, Jobs dodged the question with a blunt retort: "Those jobs aren't coming back."

Well, why not? Why shouldn't American corporations go all-out to help meet the obvious economic needs of the nation that nurtures them? The high-techers don't mention the obvious reasons for their jobs dodge: raw corporate selfishness. Top executives and investors pocket more for themselves by hiring a cheap, easily exploitable offshore workforce. Rather than looking inward, however, they blame America.

First, they wail that American schools are failing to produce the high-skilled workers they need, so they must go abroad. Aside from that being nonsense, these very executives constantly demand that local governments exempt them from paying the taxes necessary to improve schools.

Second, they say that the U.S. lacks an integrated supply chain, which would locate makers of assorted computer parts right next door to assembly plants. But, wait — that's their fault. Apple, Dell and the like have the market clout to entice suppliers to relocate anywhere in America. Indeed, U.S. suppliers say that the reason they've relocated their production units to China is because that's where Apple et al. went.

Finally, industry leaders blame us, their customers! They assert that we insist on getting a new, cheap iGadget every year, no matter where it's made or how workers are treated, so we've forced them to abandon America.

Hogwash. Obama asked the right questions, but why ...

Published: Friday 3 February 2012
“In lieu of empirical data, why are schools rushing into this brave new world of technology?”

The release of Apple's computer-based textbooks last month had the usual technology triumphalists buzzing." Apple And The Coming Education Revolution," blared the headline at Fast Company magazine. "Apple puts iPad at head of the class," screamed MacWorld. And Time magazine declared the announcement the "debut (of) the holy grail of textbooks." It sounds exciting — a rise of the machines that promises educational utopia rather than "Terminator"-style cataclysm.

 

Or does it?

 

Though it may be too soon to definitively answer that question, it's not too soon to ask it. Because despite the celebratory hype, there's no guarantee that a hyper-technologized education system is synonymous with genuine progress.

 

Ponder, for starters, the much-discussed issue of financial efficiency. As the tech website Gizmodo noted in a post titled "You Can't Afford Apple's Education Revolution," the new iPad-based books might "only cost $15 a pop," but "instead of selling an updated textbook every 5-10 years for $100, (publishers will) update and sell every year for $15," and "it's not like you can hand down an iBook from year to year ... you expressly can't." It's the same story with so many other vaunted education-branded technologies: They seem to promise resource-strapped school districts a way to constructively reduce expenditures, but the dazzle of flashy gadgets and interactivity often means budget-busting costs over the long haul.

 

Those costs might be justifiable when a new device is a sure bet to improve education. But a school's wager on computer technology as a pedagogic panacea is often just that: a blind gamble, and one that evidence shows is hardly safe.

 

Here in Colorado, for instance, the non-profit I-News Network recently reported that students attending ...

Published: Friday 27 January 2012
“Obama should shine in comparison with his Republican challenger, but there is little in his State of the Union speech to suggest he will chart a much-needed new course in his second term.”

I’ll admit it: Listening to Barack Obama, I am ready to enlist in his campaign against the feed-the-rich Republicans ... until I recall that I once responded in the same way to Bill Clinton’s faux populism. And then I get angry because betrayal by the “good guys” for whom I have ended up voting has become the norm.

Yes, betrayal, because if Obama meant what he said in Tuesday’s State of the Union address about holding the financial industry responsible for its scams, why did he appoint the old Clinton crowd that had legalized those scams to the top economic posts in his administration? Why did he hire Timothy Geithner, who has turned the Treasury Department into a concierge service for Wall Street tycoons? 

Why hasn’t he pushed for a restoration of the Glass-Steagall Act, which Clinton’s deregulation reversed? Does the president really believe that the Dodd-Frank slap-on-the-wrist sellout represents “new rules to hold Wall Street accountable, so a crisis like this never happens again”? Can he name one single too-big-to-fail banking monstrosity that has been reduced in size on his watch instead of encouraged to grow ever larger by Treasury and Fed bailouts and interest-free money?

When Obama declared Tuesday evening “no American company should be able to avoid paying its fair share of taxes by moving ...

Published: Wednesday 2 November 2011
“When the holiday was granted once before, in 2004, some of the wealthiest corporations had their taxes cut by billions of dollars.”

Almost 70 members of Congress co-sponsoring legislation for a massive tax holiday have received almost a million dollars in campaign contributions from the corporations that would benefit most.

Among the leading advocates for a bill that would allow the firms to pay cut-rate taxes on a trillion dollars these firms have stashed offshore is the WIN America campaign, a coalition of trade groups and companies like Apple, Pfizer and Google. An iWatch News analysis of campaign finance data has found that 68 of the 80 sponsors of the legislation in the House and Senate have received donations from WIN-affiliated companies since the start of 2009, taking in more than $940,000.

In addition to contributions to lawmakers, the WIN affiliates gave huge amounts to the two national political parties. The national committees for the Republicans got at least $576,000 while their Democratic counterparts collected at least $408,000 during this period.

For a select group of companies that would benefit most from the tax holiday, the stakes are high. When the holiday was granted once before, in 2004, some of the wealthiest corporations had their taxes cut by billions of dollars. Pfizer profited to the tune of $37 billion; Merck by $15.9 billion, Hewlett-Packard by $14.5 billion and IBM and Johnson & Johnson by some $10 billion each.

Given the number of tech firms that stand to benefit from the tax holiday, it is no surprise California Democrats with Silicon Valley connections are among the top recipients. Reps. Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren, who both claim part of Silicon Valley in their districts, are among the 11 Democrats to co-sponsor the House bill. They ranked first and second in funds received from WIN affiliates among co-sponsors of the bill, with Eshoo receiving more than ...

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