Award-winning Investigative Journalist Robert Parry (1949-2018)

Award-winning investigative journalist and founder/editor of, Robert Parry has passed away. His ground-breaking work uncovering Reagan-era dirty wars in Central America and many other illegal and immoral policies conducted by successive administrations and U.S. intelligence agencies, stands as an inspiration to all in journalists working in the public interest.

Robert had been a regular guest on our Between The Lines and Counterpoint radio shows -- and many other progressive outlets across the U.S. over four decades.

His penetrating analysis of U.S. foreign policy and international conflicts will be sorely missed, and not easily replaced. His son Nat Parry writes a tribute to his father: Robert Parry’s Legacy and the Future of Consortiumnews.

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Ending Tax Giveaways to the Rich is Key to Reducing U.S. Deficit

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Posted April 13, 2011

Interview with Chuck Collins, director of the Institute for Policy Studies' Project on Inequality and the Common Good, conducted by Scott Harris


There was high drama on Capitol Hill, echoed in the nation's media, as an 11th hour deal was struck between the Obama White House and Congress to avert a government shutdown over approval of federal funds for the remaining 2011 budget. Of the $38 billion in cuts fought for and won by the GOP that still must be approved by the House and Senate, most were in spending on health, education, transportation and the environment. Programs affected include community AIDS treatment projects and aid to low-income mothers and children. Other programs taking severe hits were those that funded research into developing renewable energy and energy efficiency as well as promoting clean drinking water.

But larger fights loom over the nation's deficit as Congress will soon confront the necessary increase of the federal debt ceiling and a showdown over the 2012 budget. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has called for more than $6.2 trillion in budget cuts, repeal of the Obama health care reform law, the gutting of Medicare and Medicaid as well as more large tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. President Obama will lay out his approach in a speech on April 13 that many progressives fear will accept the conservative premise that deep cuts must be made to Social Security and Medicare.

Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Chuck Collins, director of the Institute for Policy Studies' Project on Inequality and the Common Good. Collins talks about his group's new report titled, "Unnecessary Austerity," which provides a blueprint on how to address the nation's deficit by reversing billions of dollars in tax giveaways to the richest Americans and most profitable corporations.

CHUCK COLLINS: This whole deficit and debt debate has been constructed. You know it's not unusual for a country that is at war in several places and has just gone the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression to engage in deficit spending in December 2008 and early 2009. Some of that spending and monetary policies of the Federal Reserve actually softened the blow and moneys going to communities through the stimulus bill as derided as it is, kept a lot of teachers and firefighters on job and kept a lot of people at work.

And what we're about to do is eliminate those tools from the toolbox at a time when it's still quite a fragile economic rebound. So, as a percent of our gross domestic product, the amount of our debt is not unusual for a time of war and a time of depression. And there are times when you should borrow and times when you shouldn't. And this would be one of these times when it actually makes sense.

Unfortunately, we're borrowing after a decade of racking up debt that was kind of mistaken. You know, we borrowed money to give tax cuts to the wealthy. We borrowed money to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And so we borrowed and squandered, whereas it might make sense in certain situations to borrow and invest and stimulate the economy, which is what we've done the last couple of years.

So, it's a dangerous situations, because we could go -- because of rising fuel costs, rising food costs -- we could actually see another economic downturn, but we wouldn't have the political will and we wouldn't have the tools to soften the blow the next time around.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Chuck Collins, summarize for us what you found in your group's recent report "Unnecessary Austerity," put out by the Institute for Policy Studies' Project on Inequality and the Common Good that basically refutes the GOP position that America has only a spending problem while ignoring the revenue side of the equation where tax cuts for the wealthy have increased the tax burden on working and middle class families.

CHUCK COLLINS: You know, the pinch we're in has two parts of it. One of is that income and wealth has concentrated at the top, in the top 1 percent of households in a way that we haven't seen since the 1920s. And that at the same time, we've stopped taxing the top. So huge amounts of money are going to the top, but we're not taxing it, we're not taxing corporations and individuals at the same level that we were at any time in the last couple of decades.

And we actually looked at -- it's interesting to look 1961, go back 50 years, the year Barack Obama was born. If millionaires today paid the same rate, effective rate that they paid 1961, and million-dollar corporations earning a million or more paid at the same rate that they paid in 1961, our Treasury would raise another $716 billion a year, which is $7 trillion over 10 years. So that's just an example that the tax code has gotten more regressive, meaning lower-income people, middle-income people are carrying a greater part of the responsibility and the wealthy and global corporations are paying less.

So, there are a number of reasons for that. But we've essentially been cutting taxes on the top. If you were a millionaire in 1961, you paid an effective rate of about 43 percent of your income in taxes. And if you're a millionaire today, you pay about 23 percent. And if you earn $50,000 you pay about 21 percent. So it's not that different. So, one very simple remedy to this whole austerity thing is just reverse some of the tax cuts. In particular, close some of these corporate tax loopholes. I mean, Scott, you pay more taxes than General Electric, Boeing, Verizon, Exxon Mobil, Federal Express all put together. Those companies use off-shore tax havens, they play accounting games to avoid paying any taxes. And before we make any more drastic cuts, maybe those corporations should pay their fair share.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Chuck, a couple of the big showdowns that are going to be occurring on Capitol Hill revolve around increasing the federal debt limit and the 2012 budget plans already unveiled by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan that would phase out Medicare and slash Medicaid. So these programs would not even be recognizeable -- programs that are very popular with the entire country. How do you see the Obama administration playing this game of chicken here with Republicans, who seem to hold things like Planned Parenthood if they can't get their way, just taking these kind of culture war issues and injecting them into the budget issues?

CHUCK COLLINS: Based on this sort of first run-through of the show, it's not going to be great because the Obama administration gonna really have to say, "Look, we're gonna draw the line. We're not going to cut services for the most vulnerable." If you just took a quick reading of mental health services, childhood health care, immunization, all these things that actually hit the most vulnerable people in our society. You have to basically draw your line and not cross it, and hold the line and go to the American people and say, "We don't have to make these cuts, we can raise this revenue. President Obama was one of the co-sponsors of the "Stop Tax Haven Abuse" legislation that closed down some of these off-shore tax havens and would generate $100 billion in revenue. We could institute a financial speculation tax on Wall Street and generate $150 billion a year. There are other options out there, and the president needs to be both a champion of revenue as well as a kind of moral voice on these issues of what kind of budget cuts aren't going to be acceptable. He's going to have to find his voice in this battle. And the fact is the American people would probably rally behind him if he can make a compelling argument. But if he stays in the deficit-austerity framework, then we're in for tough times.

Read The Institute for Policy Studies’ Project on Inequality and the Common Good's report "Unnecessary Austerity, Unnecessary Shutdown." Visit the Institute for Policy Studies website at

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