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Enbridge is quite a corporate citizen

by Dan Burns on March 28, 2017 · 0 comments

oilspillFor some background, here.
 

Enbridge Energy’s massive property tax challenge may end up costing several northern Minnesota counties millions of dollars. In fact, two counties — Clearwater and Red Lake — could end up refunding more money to Enbridge than they raise annually from all of their property tax payers.
 
Enbridge has appealed five years of taxes, claiming the Minnesota Department of Revenue unfairly valued its vast pipeline network, resulting in significantly higher payments. The company says a November Minnesota Supreme Court decision in a separate pipeline tax case buttresses its own appeals.
 
“It’s scary for us,” said Allen Paulson, Clearwater County’s auditor. “If Enbridge wins its appeal, the [tab for the county] will be $7.2 million, and our levy is $6.8 million.”
(Star Tribune)

The article goes on to note that Enbridge had $524 million in net operating profits in Minnesota in 2015. Paying its property taxes here poses a real existential threat to the company, all right.
 
A stunt like this is actually a symptom. The cause is a generation of corporate execs and lawyers brought up on jejune drivel from the likes of Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand.
 
The vermin at Enbridge who made this call, and their ilk everywhere, need to be crushed. I don’t know of a fast, effective way of accomplishing that. But more people with progressive opinions actually troubling to vote would be a very good start.
 

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trumpA pretty inept, sorry way of fighting on behalf of American workers.
 

President Trump’s budget slashes investment in clean energy — the biggest new source of sustainable high-wage employment in the world.
 
In contrast, China’s latest five-year energy budget invests $360 billion in renewable generation alone by 2020. Beijing calculates the resulting “employment will be more than 13 million people.”
 
Trump’s self-proclaimed “America First” budget released (March 16) zeroes out key Department of Energy (DOE) clean-tech programs:
 
– the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which invests in innovative clean technology
– a program to improve manufacturing for clean cars, and
– the loan guarantee program, which jump-started large-scale U.S. solar deployment, the electric vehicle (EV) revolution, and companies like Tesla.
(Think Progress)

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Trump, DeVos look to crush student borrowers

by Dan Burns on March 27, 2017 · 0 comments

Student-loans-can-be-a-challengeIn the world we’re in:
 

Student loan companies will be free to charge thousands of dollars in fees to borrowers who miss payments, even if they immediately attempt to catch up, the Trump administration said (March 16), reversing Obama-era guidance that banned the charges.
 
The reversal was the first visible move on student loan policy by Trump’s Education Department, and suggests the administration may ultimately take a more industry-friendly approach to student lending…
 
USA Funds, then the country’s largest guarantor of indirect federal loans, sued the Education Department in 2015 for the right to charge a fee as high as 16% to people who had started to repay their loans within 60 days of defaulting. The woman at the center of the case had tried to repay her loans just 18 days after she was told she had gone into default — and then was hit with $4,500 in fees on a loan of $18,000.
(BuzzFeed)

“The number of hungry and homeless students rises along with college costs” (MPR)
 
In a potential, better one:
 

The election of 2016 forced us, like so many Americans, to reconsider much of what we imagined we knew about our country and our society. For example, only a few months ago there was a growing, nation-wide movement for tuition-free higher education. At the time, we proposed debt forgiveness for the many Americans – the figure now stands at 43 million – who carry the burden of student loans.
 
Now, all three branches of government are under the control of ideologues who espouse a harsh and individualistic brand of conservatism. That forces us to ask ourselves: How can we pursue such an ambitious and visionary goal when we are confronted with a direct challenge to the communitarian ideals that have guided this nation to its best achievements?
 
And yet, individually and together, we have reached the same conclusion: this is a more important time than ever to reaffirm our bravest and highest values. Jubilee – the ancient concept of debt forgiveness as an affirmation of community – reflects those values. We can reject the reactionary principles that the right wing represents by embracing the concept of a student debt jubilee as the symbol of our long-held community values.
(OurFuture.org)

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Meanwhile, Back On The Farm

by Bill Prendergast on March 24, 2017 · 0 comments

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Script/Layout: Bill Prendergast Art: Caitlin Skaalrud

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Trump/GOP assault on workers is here

by Dan Burns on March 24, 2017 · 0 comments

childworkAbsolutely despicable. Then again, is there anything about Trump, Lyin’ Ryan, and their minions that isn’t?
 

While the details of President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget remain scant, one thing is clear: The Department of Labor will likely be one of the biggest losers. Trump’s budget proposal would cut the department’s funding by $2.5 billion, or 21 percent, which will mean drastic changes for the work the department does…
 
The 2018 budget details around $500 million in cuts for the department, which likely means that programs for disadvantaged workers, including seniors, youths, and those with disabilities, would be reduced or completely eliminated. The Senior Community Service Employment Program, training grants at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and technical-assistance grants at the Office of Disability Employment Policy would all disappear. Job-training centers for disadvantaged children would be shuttered and funding for more general job-training and employment services would move from the federal budget to states.
(The Atlantic)

The infamous Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) introduced a bill last month which would take Right To Be Exploited national.
 
…READ MORE

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imagesqtbnANd9GcRhlLTHok0fDiQpsx_IVQRQg-lVMpygkf1rEyJsns1mZT-bzjRXNo one cuts through Party of Trump bulls*it in Minnesota – and uncritical corporate media amplification of it – like the outstanding North Star Policy Institute.
 

Exempting Social Security income from the state income tax—even if it is somehow targeted to households with incomes under $120,000, as promotional material released by Senate conservatives suggests—is likely to benefit higher income seniors. That’s because low- and middle-income seniors are already paying little or no tax on their Social Security income because the first $32,000 of this income is already exempt and only a portion of the income above $32,000 is taxed on a sliding income-sensitive scale. Based on 2012 data, sixty percent of Social Security recipients already pay no tax on their Social Security income; the forty percent that pay any tax on Social Security income tend to be of relatively high income…
 
The second main feature of the conservative Senate tax plan is to reduce the state business property tax levy. A portion of this reduction—the exemption of the first $100,000 of taxable value—at least has the benefit of directing a sizeable share of the tax relief to the smaller businesses, as noted in a recent North Star article, but the elimination of the annual inflation adjustment to the state business property tax will direct the overwhelming bulk of tax relief to extremely high value businesses, with the top one percent of businesses by value getting 30.5 percent of the tax relief, while the bottom 75 percent of businesses by value get only 14 percent of the relief. In future biennia, the cost of eliminating the inflation adjustment is likely to grow rapidly and quickly surpass the amount of relief given through exempting the first $100,000 of value.
(North Star Policy Institute)

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trump10He obviously knows no shame.
 

The ubiquity of Goldman Sachs veterans across numerous presidencies throughout history, both Republican and Democratic, has been well documented. But Donald Trump sold himself as something different, an economic nationalist determined to rankle Wall Street. He even ran campaign ads savaging bankers like Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein for their role in a “global power structure.”
 
That populist smokescreen is long gone now.
 
Mnuchin and Donovan are just two of five Goldman expats in high-level positions on Trump’s team. Steve Bannon spent a limited time at Goldman Sachs, but White House assistant Dina Powell, who headed the bank’s philanthropic efforts, and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, Goldman’s former president, had higher-ranking positions for a longer period. Jay Clayton, Trump’s nominee for the Securities and Exchange Commission, was a partner for Goldman’s main law firm, Sullivan and Cromwell.
(The Intercept)

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Gov. Dayton vetoes GOP assault on renewables

by Dan Burns on March 21, 2017 · 0 comments

solar2The Minnesota Party of Trump in the legislature has been pressing ahead with a radical-right agenda, despite what’s going down with their hero in the White House. Thankfully, in this state there is a remaining check and balance. From yesterday:
 

Since late January, Bluestem has chronicled the problems with HF234 in posts like “Are King Coal’s foxes to guard the co-op? HF234 would leave rural utility customers on defense” and “From our friends at CURE: tell Governor Mark Dayton: veto bill, protect solar in Minnesota.”
 
We are pleased as are so many friends that the governor chose to veto the bill today.
(Bluestem Prairie)

I’m adding some items that I’ve had sitting in my “environment” file for a while.
 

A five kilowatt rooftop solar installation now costs just $12,500 on average after tax credits, and pretty soon, installing one might soon be a matter of re-tiling your roof. Whether it’s right for you, however, depends in large part on how much sun your house gets. That’s where Google’s Project Sunroof comes in — launched just two years ago, it has now surveyed over 60 million US buildings in 50 states. That means there’s a good chance you can see the electricity production potential in your city, neighborhood and even specific house.
 
Google calculates the amount of sunlight on your roof based on “3D modeling of your roof and nearby trees,” weather patterns, the position of the sun in the sky during the year and shade from buildings, trees and other obstructions. That info is then converted to energy production “using industry standard models for solar installation performance,” Google says.
 
The results are surprising: 79 percent of all US rooftops are solar viable, meaning they have enough unshaded area for solar panels. Obviously, some regions are better than others — over 90 percent of homes in Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico are technically viable, but even northern states like Pennsylvania, Maine and Minnesota are over 60 percent. Houston, Texas has the most solar potential of any US city, with 18.9 gigawatt-hours of total power generation capability if all roofs had solar panels.
(engadget)

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schoolsI admit that since the election I’ve generally seen fit to be somewhat measured when it comes to education issues. The Trumpkins won’t really be able to literally destroy public education, will they? As it turns out, they really do damn well plan to try.
 

The budget includes increases for the charter school fund, a new program for private school choice, and incentives for states to make sure some Title I dollars for low-income students follow them as they move among schools. The $1.4 billion in new dollars for school choice eventually will ramp up to $20 billion, the budget says, matching the amount Trump pledged to spend on school choice during his campaign.
 
“We will give our children the right to attend the school of their choice, one where they will be taught to love our country and its values,” Trump pledged at a rally in Nashville Wednesday evening.
 
The department overall would see cuts of $9 billion, which amounts to 13 percent of its “discretionary” budget (the part not including mandatory higher-education spending).
(The 74)

Don’t count on Congress changing this much. Plenty of Democrats there remain fans of the school deformer movement, despite the proven failure and corruption of its agenda. They will probably mitigate the cuts to public school spending somewhat, but won’t change the privatization initiatives to speak of.
 
Here’s where some hope that we can avoid total disaster comes from. (Don’t get me wrong, there will be plenty of opposition in urban districts, too.)
 
…READ MORE

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trump2More on the budget proposal.
 

This is a “shock and awe” budget, designed to dazzle and confuse Trump’s political enemies and the general public. When Republicans on Capitol Hill dial back a few of its more extreme cuts, as is almost inevitable, the public will be expected to sigh with relief. That would be a mistake, since the result will almost certainly remain draconian.
 
Congressional Republicans will also demand cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Trump promised to defend those programs, but stay tuned: after ritual displays of ‘reluctance,’ followed by ‘negotiations,’ Trump will probably break that promise too.
 
Trump pretends to be a different kind of Republican, but his budget blueprint is ideologically consistent with the modern GOP’s hard-right extremism. It values death over life, and fear over hope. It tramples on the bonds that hold us together as one people. It sells off the environment, our shared inheritance. It rejects the fundamental American idea that a nation should be a community, a group of people who protect and look out for one another. It’s antagonistic to the very idea of government itself.
(OurFuture.org)

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