July 3, 2015

Nine Myths About the Greek Crisis – by James K. Galbraith

Yanis Varoufakis

Click here for the original Politico site, or read on…

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July 2, 2015

BP’s $18.7 Settlement Today for Gulf Spill Appears to Be Mostly Tax Deductible : Oil Giant Will Likely Write Off $13.2 Billion as an Ordinary Business Cost

Outrageous and hidden corporate tax giveaway as part of BP’s final big settlement for the Gulf spill today: a $4.6 billion tax windfall for the oil giant.

For Immediate Release

July 2, 2015

Contact: Phineas Baxandall, Ph.D.

Senior Analyst for Tax and Budget Policy

U.S. Public Interest Research Group


(857) 234-1328

BP’s $18.7 Settlement Today for Gulf Spill Appears to Be Mostly Tax Deductible

Oil Giant Will Likely Write Off $13.2 Billion as an Ordinary Business Cost

Today’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice of a $18.7 billion out-of-court settlement with BP to resolve charges related to the Gulf Oil spill failed to indicate whether the deal will allow the oil giant to write portions off as an ordinary tax deduction – thus, greatly reducing the public value of these payments.

“A judge had declared the oil spill was the result of gross negligence. It is outrageous for BP to treat any portion of these payments as an ordinary business expense. We call on the company to promise that it will not write these payments off as tax deductions,” said Phineas Baxandall, Senior Analyst for Tax and Budget Policy at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. “We also call on the Justice Department to make public the full language of the settlement on its website.”

Often settlements are posted alongside press releases on the Department of Justice website, but the DOJ had failed to do this on their press statement at the time of this release. Instead, they provide a fact sheet that gives troubling indications that the true after-tax value of today’s settlement with the federal government, five states and 400 local entities may actually be far less than the $18.7 billion trumpeted in the headline of the DOJ statement:

  • Only $5.5 billion is indicated explicitly as a penalty under the Clean Water Act. The federal government could have received as much as a $13.7 billion penalty under that Act based on a recent finding by a New Orleans judge that the spill was the result of “gross negligence.” Penalties are not tax deductible by law, as opposed to ordinary business compensation or restitution. But 80 percent of this sum is also indicated as heading to states for restoration efforts, which could allow BP to treat it as deductible, unless the settlement language forbids it.
  • $13.2 billion of today’s settlement is not categorized as a penalty, indicating that it will almost certainly become a tax deduction, unless the settlement explicitly forbids it. If so, this non-penalty portion of the settlement will have an after-tax value of only $8.58 billion, and the whole deal would be worth only $14.08 billion to the public.
  • The Justice Department fact sheet indicates that the $8.1 billion earmarked for natural resource damages “includes $1 billion already committed for early restoration,” thus indicating a billion dollars of today’s announcement is actually just repackaging an earlier concession by the company.
  • Because the payments will be made over 18 years, the real value of latter payments will have significantly eroded. Depending on inflation, the value of a billion dollars paid 18 years from now will be far less than a billion dollar payment today.

A bipartisan bill in Congress, The Truth in Settlements Act, in the House and Senate would require federal agencies to be explicit whether large out-of-court settlements are tax deductible and would require companies to disclose in their SEC filings whether they use settlements as tax deductions.

Some agencies, such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, promptly post all their settlements online and are very explicit about forbidding payments to be tax deductible. Since 2013, standard practice at the Environmental Protection Agency has been to make explicit in their settlements that agreed costs of undergoing future clean up or paying into clean up funds are also non-deductible.

Said Baxandall, “Americans expect that when companies pay settlements for terrible acts like oil spills or mortgage scams, it is to atone for their misdeeds and to discourage future violations of public law. It sends the wrong message to allow payments for misdeeds to be a tax write off. Moreover, every dollar that BP receives as a tax windfall for deducting this settlement will be a dollar that ordinary taxpayers will need to shoulder in the form of more national debt, higher tax rates or cuts to public programs. Allowing this settlement to be a tax write-off subsidizes bad behavior.”

You can read U.S. PIRG’s research report on settlement deductions here (link).

# # #


Phineas Baxandall, Ph.D.

Senior Analyst and Program Director

U.S. Public Interest Research Group

(617) 747-4351



— Twitter: @PBaxandall

— Skype: phineas.baxandall

— LinkedIn: http://tinyurl.com/Phineas-LinkedIn

July 2, 2015

brutal logic of contemporary capitalism -saskia sassen

July 2, 2015

US Senator Bernie Sanders Blasts Greece’s Creditors

Terms no one can live with. Let’s get real.

Yanis Varoufakis

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) attacked the International Monetary Fund and European authorities on Wednesday for imposing what he called excessive austerity measures on Greece in negotiations over the country’s debt payments. [Click here for the Huffington Post site, or read on]

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June 29, 2015

Truth Committee on Public Debt – Greece Week of June 29-July 6 2015

June 29, 2015

As it happened – Yanis Varoufakis’ intervention during the 27th June 2015 Eurogroup Meeting

Historic moment. Wake up people.

Yanis Varoufakis

The Eurogroup Meeting of 27th June 2015 will not go down as a proud moment in Europe’s history. Ministers turned down the Greek government’s request that the Greek people should be granted a single week during which to deliver a Yes or No answer to the institutions’ proposals – proposals crucial for Greece’s future in the Eurozone. The very idea that a government would consult its people on a problematic proposal put to it by the institutions was treated with incomprehension and often with disdain bordering on contempt. I was even asked: “How do you expect common people to understand such complex issues?”. Indeed, democracy did not have a good day in yesterday’s Eurogroup meeting! But nor did European institutions. After our request was rejected, the Eurogroup President broke with the convention of unanimity (issuing a statement without my consent) and even took the dubious decision to convene a follow up meeting without the Greek minister, ostensibly to…

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March 12, 2015

This season’s must watch: Kurt Cobain lives again in HBO’s Montage of Heck

tumblr_kqalhwblnh1qzvqipo1_500 Nirvana Courtney and Francis w RuPaul

December 26, 2014

The euro’s first inkling – a piece in lieu of Best Wishes for 2015

Yanis Varoufakis

Sphere made of numbers on white backgroundAs 2015 is approaching, seemingly pregnant with crucial challenges for Europe, the euro and all those who have to live with it, I could not think of a better seasonal offering for readers of this blog than a suitable extract from my next book. I chose a piece that narrates, and interprets, the story of the first time the euro was proposed in the highest echelons of European decision making. Hope you enjoy it.

With wishes for a 2015 worth remembering fondly.

An Indecent Proposal

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December 22, 2014

Gene Sharp’s 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action

Time has come today, time.

Global Freedom Movement

en: Peace dove icon. es: Icono de la paloma de...


  1. Public speeches
  2. Letters of opposition or support
  3. Declarations by organizations and institutions
  4. Signed public declarations
  5. Declarations of indictment and intention
  6. Group or mass petitions


  1. Slogans, caricatures, and symbols
  2. Banners, posters, and displayed communications
  3. Leaflets, pamphlets, and books
  4. Newspapers and journals
  5. Records, radio, and television
  6. Skywriting and earthwriting


  1. Deputations
  2. Mock awards
  3. Group lobbying
  4. Picketing
  5. Mock elections


  1. Displays of flags and symbolic colours
  2. Wearing of symbols
  3. Prayer and worship
  4. Delivering symbolic objects
  5. Protest disrobings
  6. Destruction of own property
  7. Symbolic lights
  8. Displays of portraits
  9. Paint as protest
  10. New signs and names
  11. Symbolic sounds
  12. Symbolic reclamations
  13. Rude gestures


  1. “Haunting” officials
  2. Taunting officials
  3. Fraternization
  4. Vigils


  1. Humourous skits and pranks
  2. Performances of plays and music
  3. Singing


  1. Marches
  2. Parades
  3. Religious processions
  4. Pilgrimages
  5. Motorcades


  1. Political mourning
  2. Mock funerals
  3. Demonstrative funerals
  4. Homage at burial places


  1. Assemblies of protest or support
  2. Protest meetings
  3. Camouflaged meetings of protest
  4. Teach-ins


  1. Walk-outs
  2. Silence

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November 25, 2014

Imagine: Darren Wilson has no gun, Mike Brown Lives

Darren Wilson is patrolling Ferguson. He pulls onto Canfield Drive in his Police car. He sees two young black me walking in the road. They are Mike Brown and Dorian Johnson. Wilson pulls up alongside them, “Hey Niggers get on the sidewalk”. Brown and Johnson keep walking. Wilson says, “I said get on the effing sidewalk.” and pulls next to Brown who is closest to his SUV. “You get out of the road cop”, Brown retorts. Now Wilson’s vehicle is very close to Brown, close enough that Wilson and Brown can make physical contact. Wilson leans out of the vehicle and repeats his command, “I said get out of the road before I make you.” Wilson slams on the brakes opens the door hitting Brown, Brown hits him once a blow to the face. Wilson is now enraged yelling, “You stupid nigger, now you are in trouble,” and jumps out of the vehicle. Brown realizes he may be in trouble and quickly moves away from the vehicle. Now Wilson is out of the car and chasing Brown. Brown is hit confused trying to get away backing up then running. Wilson shoots hits Brown in the head and abdomen, Brown doubles over. Wilson pushes him to the ground and gets behind him with handcuffs. Wilson picks up Brown just as other officers arrive on the scene. They put Brown in the back of the car and take him to the Police station for processing.

Is this over-reach? Are the cops looking for reasons to harass young black men? Was Darren Wilson able to handle this? Is Mike Brown alive? All these answers are YES.

Why do we let scared and unprepared men police our communities?