Notes from the US

Freedom’s long-running US correspondent Louis Further does his monthly roundup of some of the lesser-known stories that have emerged over the last few weeks.

Economy

Despite the holiday season, Donald Trump has not been idle (although it has been estimated that he spends one in every five days playing golf, costing the tax payer literally hundreds of billions of dollars). Anyone who believed that Trump would reform (“Drain the swamp”) the Washington system – taxes, for instance – will have been shocked to discover that he recently asked his Treasury Department, headed by former Goldman Sachs banker Steve Mnuchin, to weaken elements of the 2017 tax law to make it even more favourable to wealthy individuals and large corporations. Corporate lobbyists have effectively reversed the ‘BEAT’ (base erosion and anti-abuse tax) and ‘GILTI’ (global intangible low-taxed income) provisions obliging them to pay huge amounts of taxes on monies held overseas. Individuals with low incomes who have small amounts of (life) savings and pensions abroad, however, are often still subject to double taxation because US tax authorities fail to honour and operate international treaties forbidding this.

Being healthy in the US is a business: the health ‘insurance’ companies and healthcare providers spent no less than US$812 (£622) billion on paperwork and administration alone in 2017. If the so-called ‘Medicare for All’ proposal whereby healthcare would be removed from private for-profit control were adopted, fully three quarters of this could be saved. That’s according to a new study, which was published earlier this month in the journal ‘Annals of Internal Medicine’. As much as US$600 billion (£52 million a day) could be saved. There is little chance of such change, however, so great is the lobbying power of the ‘health’ industry.

An analysis [pdf] by Bloomberg published at the end of last year shows how the rich are still getting richer: in the United States, for instance, the richest 0.1% now have a larger share the world’s wealth than at any time in the last 90 years. Eight of the ten richest people in the world are from the US; and over the last year alone the net worth of the world’s richest 500 people has grown by US$5.9 (£4.5) trillion. At about the same time, a new study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy showed that 91 Fortune 500 companies paid no federal taxes in 2018. These included the likes of Amazon, Starbucks, Chevron, Duke Energy, Halliburton and others.

Oppression

In July newborn Randy James Ahlers was found to have two rare medical conditions: ‘mosaic trisomy 9’ and ‘agenesis of the corpus callosum’. Near to Christmas, his father had been putting out flyers near a shopping mall in Toledo, Ohio, asking for donations to meet high medical bills, when he noticed that one of them had been defaced and torn down to be replaced with a board which read ‘Stop asking for money. Let the baby die. It’s called Darwinism. Happy Holidays’.

The family health advocacy group Planned Parenthood has long been demonised by the right. Earlier this month in Delaware, a teenager attacked one of their local clinics by throwing an incendiary device at it starting a fire. Samuel James Gulick (18) was charged with three criminal counts – including intentionally damaging a facility that provides reproductive health services. Around the same time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin two young teenagers (12 and 13) were shot because they were throwing snowballs at passing cars.

Violence is part of life in the US; it accompanies – and is inspired by – the élite’s love of war and military power. A database compiled and maintained by the Associated Press (AP), USA Today and Northeastern University shows that people in the country were subject to more mass killings in 2019 than any year on record: no fewer than 41 major incidents resulting in 211 deaths. ‘Mass killings’ are defined as four or more people (excluding the perpetrator) losing their lives in the same incident. Nearly 80% of the incidents involved firearms. California had the highest number of mass killings (eight) of any state.

Environment

Freedom has reported before on the ways in which the Trump family loves slaughtering animals, hunting endangered (and any other) species they can aim a gun at. It only emerged last month, but Donald Trump Jr. felt – presumably – that he had no other ways to assert his power than painfully ending the lives of Mongolian Argali sheep. That’s an officially endangered species. He shares the destructive sickness with his brother Eric.

On 9 January Trump took the next step in his attempts to destroy the environment in the US, and eventually worldwide: it doesn’t matter – he won’t be around to suffer. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) became law in 1970 and took significant steps to give local communities affected by federal infrastructure projects the right to be involved in decision-making. Such projects include pipelines, power plants, bridges, and other infrastructure projects. It is now obligatory that such changes to the earth are subject to a detailed environmental assessment. In future it will no longer be necessary for climate change even to be considered. Rebecca Concepcion Apostol is US programme director at Oil Change International. Responding to this latest act of destruction by Trump, she said, “Today, Trump is taking a chainsaw to a bedrock environmental law that has protected Americans for decades. This is a reckless, dangerous, blatant gift to the fossil fuel industry that will have dire consequences for all of us.”

Racism

In early December 42-year-old Nicole Marie Poole Franklin ran over a 14-year-old girl in Clive, a small town about nine miles from Des Moines, Iowa. Her reason? Simple: Franklin attempted to kill the girl because she was Mexican. Trump’s message seems to be hitting home.

There was originally a measure in the National Defense Authorization Act specifically designed to address the threat of white nationalists in the army. That bill – which authorises obscene amounts of money to be wasted on killing and destruction – did eventually pass the Senate. But it was only approved because the phrase ‘white nationalist’ was removed.

Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher was pardoned by Donald Trump towards the end of last year for a number of war crimes, including killing a 15-year-old, after which he posed for a photograph with the body. Never mind, Gallagher now has a new career: as a ‘micro influencer’… his Instagram account builds on his notoriety as a murderer. He successfully endorses coffee beans, muscle-building supplements with names like ‘Double Tap’ and ‘Total War’ and clothing; the website of one of Gallagher’s new line of businesses also has him posing with a young boy; but a lucky one this time: Gallagher hasn’t murdered him.

Louis Further