US trafficking report highlights vulnerability of children
By SUSANNAH GEORGE
Thursday, June 28
WASHINGTON (AP) — Children removed from their families and placed in institutional care are at greater risk of being trafficked, the U.S. warned Thursday in an annual report.
The State Department report, which ranks governments in their efforts to combat slavery and the flesh trade, left the Trump administration open to accusations of hypocrisy as the administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy has separated more than 2,000 migrant children from their parents on the country’s southern border.
The Trafficking in Persons report was unveiled in a ceremony at the State Department by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and presidential adviser Ivanka Trump.
“Our commitment to fighting (human trafficking) and ending this together is incredibly strong,” Pompeo said. “The world should know that we will not stop before we know human trafficking is a thing of the past.”
Ivanka Trump attended the ceremony and handed out awards to individuals recognized for helping fight human trafficking, but did not make any public remarks.
Among the countries demoted to “tier 3,” the ranking system’s lowest category, was Myanmar, also known as Burma. The report cited its military operations in Rakhine State that forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh. Other countries with “Tier 3” status include China, North Korea and Iran.
Countries on tier 3 can be penalized with sanctions, including the withholding of non-humanitarian aid and assistance that could affect agreements with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. The president retains the authority to waive the sanctions in U.S. national interests or if the penalties could adversely affect vulnerable populations. Countries given the worst designation have often been granted such waivers.
The United States is listed on tier 1, among countries most effectively combating human trafficking.
In a lengthy section on the detrimental effects of institutionalizing children, the report stated that “removal of a child from the family should only be considered as a temporary, last resort.”
Children held in “government-run facilities, can be easy targets for traffickers” due to the “physical and psychological effects of staying in residential institutions, combined with societal isolation and often subpar regulatory oversight by governments,” the report stated.
The Trump administration recently scaled back the “zero-tolerance” policy that separated more than 2,300 migrant families. After global uproar over the policy, President Donald Trump issued an order temporarily halting the practice of splitting families at the border and prosecuting parents and guardians, but administration officials say the policy remains intact.
When asked to explain the disconnect between U.S. policy and the trafficking report, a senior State Department official said the report released Thursday covers events from April 1, 2017, through the end of March 2018. The administration began enforcing the zero tolerance policy in May of this year. The official added that the report outlines ways in which all countries, including those like the U.S. that are listed in the top tier, can improve.
Human rights activists said the administration should take its own advice.
“The State Department deserves credit for its comprehensive and eloquent exposition on the horrors of institutionalization of children,” said John Sifton, an advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “We strongly urge White House and Department of Homeland Security officials to read that section in the context of their procedures for processing asylum seekers and other persons seeking entry into the United States,” he added.
Myanmar was also included on a list of countries identified as recruiting and using child soldiers by government forces or armed groups aligned with the government. Iran and Iraq were also added to the list this year, potentially subjecting their government to restrictions on security assistance and commercial licensing of military equipment.
Thailand, which has faced global scrutiny for the use of slave labor on fishing vessels, was promoted from a watch list to tier 2. The report cited its convictions of traffickers and complicit officials, including 11 involved in the trafficking of Rohingya migrants.
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Point: GOP Tax Plan Is a Corporate Handout
December 03, 2017 by Chris Shelton
Republicans are on the brink of passing a massive tax overhaul, and it’s looking like the biggest con of the Trump era so far. And that’s saying a lot.
The legislation being jammed through by the House and Senate Republicans is a tax giveaway to corporations and the richest 1 percent, paid for by working and middle-income families.
Across the board, working people will be hurt by this plan, whether by the new incentives to corporations to send U.S. jobs overseas, the loss of the medical expense deduction, new taxes imposed on education benefits, the inability to deduct interest on student loans, the loss of state and local tax deductions, or the forced budget cuts to Medicare, transportation, health care and other critical programs.
Despite the doubletalk from Republicans anxious to sell this plan, it’s not hard to figure out who Republicans really want to help. Why else would tax cuts for corporations and tax changes that benefit the wealthiest Americans — like the estate tax — be permanent, while individual tax cuts for middle-income families are only temporary?
Why else would corporate hedge fund managers get to keep their cozy tax breaks that give them lower tax rates than schoolteachers?
Why else would two-thirds of the benefits of the plan go to corporations, including the new incentives for corporations to send good U.S. jobs overseas?
Why else would Republicans include cuts that would strip health care coverage from 13 million working people?
Why are these corporate tax cuts considered “necessary,” when so many big corporations have been posting record profits and have an effective tax rate of less than 20 percent, or even 10 percent. Some corporations don’t pay any federal taxes at all.
Yet an analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy earlier this year found that job growth at corporations that paid an effective federal tax rate of 20 percent or less was just about non-existent. In fact, a majority of these companies cut U.S. jobs from 2008 to 2016.
Meanwhile, within 10 years, middle-income families earning $75,000 or less will be paying higher taxes, according to the bipartisan Joint Committee on Taxation. That means as many as 47 million families — and not wealthy families — will be paying higher taxes in just a few years.
Sometimes the truth comes out in unexpected ways. Recently, at an economic forum with the Trump administration’s chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, a roomful of CEOs was asked if they would use their tax cut to increase investment in the United States. The silence was overwhelming.
On more than one occasion, Cohn and his Council of Economic Advisers have stated that cutting the federal corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent would increase average household income in the United States by a conservative estimate of $4,000 a year. President Trump has done the same, speaking a few months ago in Pennsylvania, and declaring that the tax cuts “would likely give the typical American household around a $4,000 raise.”
Working people know better than to believe the boss’s promises unless they are in writing. That’s why my union has asked some of our biggest employers to sign an agreement that says if the tax plan passes, working people will get their $4,000.
Of course, many economists are skeptical, and predict that corporations will use the money from the tax cuts to buy back stock and give CEO’s and executives big raises, not raise working people’s wages or add jobs.
Economists are equally skeptical about the wild claims of economic growth. Analysis by the bipartisan Tax Policy Center found that anemic growth in the U.S. GDP would be more than offset by a massive loss of revenue, increasing the deficit by $1.27 trillion over 10 years. A survey of leading economists by the University of Chicago’s IGM Forum turned up just one supporter of the idea that this tax plan would produce economic growth.
Congress had the opportunity to simplify the tax code and reduce rates for working families while providing incentives for corporations to keep good jobs in the United States. Instead, Republicans have designed a tax plan that gives even more to those who have the most and that will hurt working and middle income families.
We have to say no to this corporate money grab.
About the Author
Chris Shelton is president of the Communications Workers of America, representing 700,000 working men and women in telecommunications, media, airlines, public service and manufacturing.
Counterpoint: Tax Reform Will Grow the Economy and Raise Wages
December 03, 2017 by Adam N. Michel
Tax reform is long overdue. The current tax code is suffocating job creation and holding down wages at home. At the same time, it’s giving American businesses far too many reasons to move overseas.
Washington has not significantly changed the federal tax system in more than 30 years. Meanwhile, our major foreign competitors — friendly and otherwise — have made their tax schemes far more business- and worker-friendly. As a result, American businesses face one of the highest corporate income tax rates in the world — a rate that crimps their ability to pay higher wages and create more jobs.
The good news is that lawmakers in Washington are mounting a serious effort to remedy that and other problems with the system.
The proposed reform package includes much needed tax cuts and simplifications for individuals, but the typical American stands to gain the most from the economic growth that will result from updating the business tax code.
The historical evidence is clear: When business taxes go down, economic growth increases and workers’ wages go up. These effects have been seen with tax changes in German and Canadian provinces, when U.S. states have lowered business taxes, and most prominently in the 1980s, the last time America reformed our federal tax code.
Consider a local business that wants to expand. The owners know that the expansion would allow them to increase production and hire workers. The additional sales would cover the new workers’ salaries, but would it also be enough to cover the costs of construction and new equipment?
The current tax code makes business investment in facilities and equipment more expensive than it should be. It can take years — even decades — for business owners to recover those costs. Lowering taxes and allowing firms to deduct capital expenses in the year they are incurred (called full expensing) will spark business growth and hiring.
Investment in buildings, equipment and technology helps workers be far more productive. And productivity is the lifeblood of economic growth. It drives higher wages and better, more affordable consumer products and services. Working families benefit both ways.
Economic analyses show that tax reform would be a big shot in the arm of the nation’s economy, growing it 3 percent to 9 percent larger than it otherwise would be.
And economic growth benefits American workers in a very concrete way: higher wages. No, businesses don’t just raise wages due to a sense of corporate benevolence. They do raise wages when workers are more productive and in higher demand.
If Washington lowers the top corporate income tax rate to 20 percent (from today’s 35 percent), American businesses and their workers will be far more competitive in the global market. U.S. businesses will invest more, hire more, and pay more.
The President’s Council of Economic Advisors recently estimated that updating the U.S. business tax code will grow the economy by 3 percent to 5 percent and will boost the typical family’s wages by at least $4,000, and possibly as much as $9,000, a year. Most economic researchers agree. A review of 10 separate studies published between 2007 and 2015 concluded that when corporate taxes are cut, workers’ wages rise.
This is exactly what happened in Canada. In 2007 the Canadians began lowering their corporate tax rate, and guess what? Wages grew significantly faster in Canada than other comparable countries.
Research from Boston University shows that updating the tax code would result in a $3,500 wage increase for every working American household. Similar reforms have been modeled by the Tax Foundation and economists at Marquette University; all found similar gains in wages and economic growth.
Policy wonks can debate which of these estimates is most accurate, but the key takeaway is clear. Updating the business tax code will boost the nation’s economy and clear the way to bigger paydays for America’s working families.
About the Author
Adam Michel is a policy analyst specializing in federal tax and budget issues for The Heritage Foundation’s Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies.
Valuing Life More than Borders
By Robert C. Koehler
“We are people who believe in the worth of every human being,” Elizabeth Warrensaid the other day, and I wondered for a moment what life would be like if that were true.
The more crucial question, however, is: How can we make it true?
Warren had just returned from McAllen, Texas, where she visited an “immigration processing center” — a place where desperate human beings are stirred into the border bureaucracy and separated into categories — immigrants, refugees, criminals — and where children, including babies, are torn from their parents’ arms, possibly forever.
This is “the law” at work here, and as we all know, “the law” is often the voice of racism and smug superiority, a tool of dominance and exploitation in the name of public order. This is American history: founded on the belief that some men are created equal and other men are less than human. And women clean house, have babies, do what they’re told.
“There are children by themselves. I saw a six-month-old baby. Little girls, little boys,” Warren said. “Family units are together if it’s a very small child, but little girls who are 12-years-old are taken away from their families and held separately. And they’re all on concrete floors in cages. There’s just no other way to describe it. They’re big, chain-link cages on cold concrete floors.”
This is not what America stands for, she said. But except for a thin, vital strain of humanity and compassion — the abolitionists, the suffragettes, the civil rights movement — this iswhat America stands for. It usually does so with such quiet certainty no one even notices, except, of course, those on the wrong side of the “us vs. them” divide: the helpless ones who bear the brunt of our patriotic hatred.
It’s so easy to kidnap children, indeed, to commit murder (usually called war) when you first dehumanize the designated enemy. Here, for instance, are the words of Leigh Valentine, speaking on a program called “Faith & Freedom”:
“Rape after rape after rape. Children below 10 years old engaging in sexual activity. All kinds of sin and disgrace and darkness; the pit of the pits. So we’re not getting the top-of-the-line echelon people coming over this border, we’re getting criminals. I mean, total criminals that are so debased and their minds are just gone. They’re unclean, they’re murderers, they’re treacherous, they’re God-haters.”
What’s unnerving is that this is not just a marginal rant. I fear those who absorb such words control the levers of American power. These are the words that justified slaveryand the genocide of Native Americans. They justified “Indian schools” — the boarding schools that native children were forced to attend, which ripped them from their families and their culture. And words to that effect have justified every war we’ve waged (even the “good ones” … World War II, the Civil War). You can’t don a uniform — whether Army fatigues or an ICE outfit — without dehumanizing the enemy of the moment.
Back to the border, then, and the words of Elizabeth Warren: “We are people who believe in the worth of every human being.”
If this were true, what would it mean?
At the very least, it would mean uprooting a lot of simplistic assumptions of what a nation is, and how, as a nation, we connect with the rest of the world. It would mean asking ourselves, for instance, why we “protect” our (Southern) border with such obsessive cruelty — and beginning to face the armed racism we have perpetrated for so long on the countries and people beyond that border.
As Richard Eskowpoints out: “One question remains: Why did these children’s families leave home in the first place? Again, the answers lie, in large part, with U.S. policy. The United States government has intervened in the internal politics of Central American countries like Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador for more than a century. It has trained Latin American military officers in techniques that include illegal techniques of torture and interrogation, often at the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas…
“Many of today’s immigrants seeking refuge from poverty, persecution, and violence aren’t just fleeing to (the) United States. In a real sense, they are also fleeing from it — or, more accurately, from the results of its actions in their home countries.”
If we begin to value the worth of every human being, the first thing we must do is acknowledge our failings in this regard over the last two centuries, and begin groping for fundamental change. This is a foundational question. Perhaps it begins with a simple (and extremely complex) commitment: From now on, we dehumanize no one. What if all national policy were embedded in such a value?
As we stood at our border, we would do so with awareness that the planet’s social order is evolving and humanity is uniting. We would understand that change begins here, with us, and the right to life doesn’t stop at this invisible line.
Masha Gessen, writing recently in The New Yorker, points out that the Trump administration is defending its border policies by citing both the law and the Bible, and alleging that the Democrats want — oh, the horror! — open borders. “Sadly,” she writes, “this is not true: no voice audible in the American political mainstream is making the argument for open borders…
“The existence of borders, and the need and right to police them, are among the unquestioned assumptions in the conversation.”
Now is the time to challenge this stagnant, cruel assumption. Now is the time to stand at our border with something other than hatred and fear. Now is the time to declare to the world that no human being is illegal.
Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.
Trump Blames Obama For His Policy Of Keeping Children In Cages