The anti-science presidential candidates

From the New York Times

by Paul Krugman

Jon Huntsman Jr., a former Utah governor and ambassador to China, isn’t a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination. And that’s too bad, because Mr. Hunstman has been willing to say the unsayable about the G.O.P. — namely, that it is becoming the “anti-science party.” This is an enormously important development. And it should terrify us.

To see what Mr. Huntsman means, consider recent statements by the two men who actually are serious contenders for the G.O.P. nomination: Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.

Mr. Perry, the governor of Texas, recently made headlines by dismissing evolution as “just a theory,” one that has “got some gaps in it” — an observation that will come as news to the vast majority of biologists. But what really got people’s attention was what he said about climate change: “I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we are seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”

That’s a remarkable statement — or maybe the right adjective is “vile.”

The second part of Mr. Perry’s statement is, as it happens, just false: the scientific consensus about man-made global warming — which includes 97 percent to 98 percent of researchers in the field, according to the National Academy of Sciences — is getting stronger, not weaker, as the evidence for climate change just keeps mounting.

In fact, if you follow climate science at all you know that the main development over the past few years has been growing concern that projections of future climate are underestimating the likely amount of warming. Warnings that we may face civilization-threatening temperature change by the end of the century, once considered outlandish, are now coming out of mainstream research groups.

But never mind that, Mr. Perry suggests; those scientists are just in it for the money, “manipulating data” to create a fake threat. In his book “Fed Up,” he dismissed climate science as a “contrived phony mess that is falling apart.”

I could point out that Mr. Perry is buying into a truly crazy conspiracy theory, which asserts that thousands of scientists all around the world are on the take, with not one willing to break the code of silence. I could also point out that multiple investigations into charges of intellectual malpractice on the part of climate scientists have ended up exonerating the accused researchers of all accusations. But never mind: Mr. Perry and those who think like him know what they want to believe, and their response to anyone who contradicts them is to start a witch hunt.

So how has Mr. Romney, the other leading contender for the G.O.P. nomination, responded to Mr. Perry’s challenge? In trademark fashion: By running away. In the past, Mr. Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, has strongly endorsed the notion that man-made climate change is a real concern. But, last week, he softened that to a statement that he thinks the world is getting hotter, but “I don’t know that” and “I don’t know if it’s mostly caused by humans.” Moral courage!

Of course, we know what’s motivating Mr. Romney’s sudden lack of conviction. According to Public Policy Polling, only 21 percent of Republican voters in Iowa believe in global warming (and only 35 percent believe in evolution). Within the G.O.P., willful ignorance has become a litmus test for candidates, one that Mr. Romney is determined to pass at all costs.

So it’s now highly likely that the presidential candidate of one of our two major political parties will either be a man who believes what he wants to believe, even in the teeth of scientific evidence, or a man who pretends to believe whatever he thinks the party’s base wants him to believe.

And the deepening anti-intellectualism of the political right, both within and beyond the G.O.P., extends far beyond the issue of climate change.

Lately, for example, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page has gone beyond its long-term preference for the economic ideas of “charlatans and cranks” — as one of former President George W. Bush’s chief economic advisers famously put it — to a general denigration of hard thinking about matters economic. Pay no attention to “fancy theories” that conflict with “common sense,” the Journal tells us. Because why should anyone imagine that you need more than gut feelings to analyze things like financial crises and recessions?

Now, we don’t know who will win next year’s presidential election. But the odds are that one of these years the world’s greatest nation will find itself ruled by a party that is aggressively anti-science, indeed anti-knowledge. And, in a time of severe challenges — environmental, economic, and more — that’s a terrifying prospect.

CEOs get richer as the middle class takes a beating

From Think Progress.com

by Pat Garofal

Last year, as Americans across the country grappled with the widespread effects of the Great Recession, tax dodging by corporations and the wealthy cost the average U.S. taxpayer $434, even as corporate profits soared 81 percent. In fact, according to a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies, “corporate tax dodging has gone so out of control that 25 major U.S. corporations last year paid their chief executives more than they paid Uncle Sam in federal income taxes”:

– Of last year’s 100 highest-paid corporate chief executives in the United States, 25 took home more in CEO pay than their company paid in 2010 federal income taxes.

– These 25 CEOs averaged $16.7 million, well above last year’s $10.8 million average for S&P 500 CEOs. Most of the companies they ran actually came out ahead at tax time, collecting tax refunds from the IRS that averaged $304 million.

– CEOs in 22 of these 25 firms enjoyed pay increases in 2010. In 13 of these companies, CEO paychecks ratcheted up while the corporate income tax bill either declined or the size of the corporate tax refund expanded.

Included amongst the 25 are well-known corporate behemoths like General Electric, Boeing, Verizon, and Ebay. Prudential CEO John Strangfeld, in one example, made $16.2 million last year while his company reaped a $722 million tax refund. Bank of New York Mellon CEO Robert Kelly received $19.4 million, after his bank got a $670 million tax refund.

Eighteen of the 25 companies that the IPS studied operated subsidiaries in offshore tax havens. In fact, “the firms, all combined, had 556 tax haven subsidiaries last year,” including 128 for just one company (the reinsurance corporation Aon).

Currently, corporate taxes have plunged to historic lows, with many of America’s largest companies literally paying no federal income taxes. Meanwhile, according to researchers at Northeastern University, corporate profits accounted for 88 percent of real national income growth since 2009, while wages and salaries made up less than 1 percent. In 2010, executive pay grew by 27 percent while wages grew by only 2 percent.

The IPS also found that “of the 25 companies that paid their CEO more than Uncle Sam, 20 also spent more on lobbying lawmakers than they paid in corporate taxes. Eighteen gave more to the political campaigns of their favorite candidates than they paid to the IRS in taxes.”

http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2011/08/31/308487/25-corporations-paid-more-to-ceo-taxes/