Change.org rakes in $25 mln from Huffington, Gates, Kutcher and others

Social change platform Change.org has closed $25 million in Series C funding. The investors in this round included Omidyar Network, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Huffington Post founder Ariana Huffington, Bill Gates, Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary. PRESS RELEASE SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Change.org, the world’s leading platform for social change with over 80 million users, today announced that it has raised $25 million from leaders in the technology, business, and media sectors. They join mission-aligned investment firm Omidyar Network, founded by eBay’s Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam, which led the company’s previous investment round and significantly increased its investment in this Series C round. The purpose of the investment round is to scale the company and its impact with the support of mission-aligned investors who have deep experience building and leading global enterprises, including founders of LinkedIn, Twitter, and Yahoo!. “We are building the largest network of people taking social action ever assembled, giving us the opportunity to transform civic participation globally,” said Change.org founder and CEO Ben Rattray. “To achieve this potential, we’ve brought together a remarkable group of investors with experience at the intersection of business, technology and social change to help advise us in this next stage of our growth.” Change.org has seen rapid growth since its last investment round in mid-2013, growing from 35 million to more than 80 million users in 196 countries, with campaigns now winning nearly once an hour. Winning campaigns on Change.org give voice to thousands of issues — from getting people access to life-saving diabetes drugs in Argentina, to helping stop acid attacks on women in India, to persuading police to wear body cameras in the U.S. The company has also expanded its staff to support citizen movements in 20 of the world’s largest democracies and hired top executives from leading technology companies, including Google, Yahoo!, Twitter and Netflix. With this Series C investment, Change.org plans to significantly expand its engineering team to build the best technology in the world to scale its support for social change globally. Specifically, the company will focus on: ● Mobile: Mobile development to enable people to take immediate action based on their location or real-time news;
● Political: Building tools to enable elected officials at all levels of government to directly engage with the rapidly increasing number of citizens that are petitioning them for change;
● Global: Supporting the ability of anyone, anywhere to create change through improved localization and translation globally. “Change.org has proven that ordinary people have extraordinary power, with over 30 million people around the globe participating in at least one winning campaign,” said Jennifer Dulski, president & COO of Change.org. “With this new investment, we’ll be entering the next phase of scaling the product, making it easy for people to take immediate action based on their location and the causes they care about, and directly engage with the businesses and governments that serve them. Our goal is to massively amplify the power people have to affect change in their communities and around the world.” The size of this investment is a sign of the continued growth and success of the new startup economy focused on social good. Change.org is a Certified B Corporation, a new class of companies dedicated to positive impact, which has grown from 51 companies in 2007 to 1,163 companies in 2014, and includes an increasing number of tech companies. “We believe that companies can be an enormous force for good and address some of the world’s biggest problems,” said Rattray. “We’re excited to be part of a new movement showing it is possible for companies to succeed in business and have widespread social impact.” Investors participating in this Series C round include: ● Ali and Hadi Partovi (co-founders, Code.org)
● Arianna Huffington (founder, Huffington Post)
● Ariel Poler (chairman, Textmarks)
● Ashton Kutcher & Guy Oseary (A-GRade Investments)
● Bill Gates
● Bryan Johnson (founder, Braintree & OS Fund)
● Dan Rosensweig (CEO, Chegg)
● Diane Tang (fellow, Google)
● Evan Williams (co-founder, Twitter & Obvious Ventures)
● Gideon Yu (former CFO, Facebook & YouTube)
● James Currier (co-founder, Tickle & Ooga Labs)
● Jeff Weiner (CEO, Linkedin)
● Jeffrey Walker (ret. co-founder & managing partner, JPMorgan Partners)
● Jerry Yang (co-founder, Yahoo! & AME Cloud Ventures)
● Joe Lonsdale (co-founder, Palantir)
● Jonathan Sackler (Chairman, Kokino LLC)
● The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
● Katie Stanton (vice president of global media, Twitter)
● Lorna Borenstein (founder & CEO, Grokker)
● Louis Eisenberg (Facebook)
● Michael Birch (co-founder, Bebo)
● Dr. Mortimer D. Sackler Family
● Nicolas Berggruen (Berggruen Institute)
● Omidyar Network
● Rick Segal (Managing Partner, Rethink)
● Reid Hoffman (co-founder, Linkedin)
● Richard Branson (founder, Virgin Group)
● Sam Altman (president, Y Combinator)
● Shawn Byers (MITS Fund, LLC)
● Trawalla Foundation
● Uprising
● Warner Philips (founder and managing partner, KW Forever Ventures) About Change.org
Change.org is the world’s largest social change platform with over 80 million users in 196 countries. Every day, people around the world use our tools to transform their communities. We make it possible for anyone to start a campaign and immediately mobilize hundreds of others locally or hundreds of thousands around the world, making governments and companies more responsive and accountable. Change.org is a Certified ‘B’ Corporation. This means we are held to high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency set by B Lab, an independent international non-profit certifying group. We are proud to have exceeded those standards, and have been named among the top 10 percent of social good companies with a positive impact on the community.

Apple Doesn’t Completely Shut Door On ‘iPhone Mini’

In a revised version of an interview published Thursday in a Chinese newspaper, Apple Inc marketing chief Phil Schiller said the company would focus on making "the best products" for customers and "never blindly pursue market share."

On Thursday, the Shanghai Evening News cited Schiller as saying that Apple would not develop a cheaper smartphone for the sake of expanding its market share.

That appeared to undermine other recent media reports indicating that Apple was working on a low-end smartphone, which would represent a significant shift in strategy for a company that has always focused on premium products.

But in a new version of the story published after the original, the Shanghai Evening News removed all references to cheaper smartphones, except for a mention of a "cheaper, low-end product." It also amended its original headline from "Apple will not push a cheaper smartphone for the sake of market share," to "Apple wants to provide the best products, will not blindly pursue market share."

Apple confirmed the interview had taken place and that it had contacted the Chinese newspaper about amending its original article, but had no further comment and declined to provide a transcript of the interview.

It was not clear if Schiller had made his original comments or if the newspaper had quoted him out of context.

The Shanghai Evening News could not be immediately reached for comment around 2:00 a.m. Shanghai time Saturday.

"We will not discuss plans for any future products," Schiller was cited as saying in a newly published quote.

The executive had originally been quoted as saying that developing a cheaper smartphone to try and replace feature phones was not a direction in which the company wanted to head. That comment was removed from the new version of the story, which now cites Schiller as saying, "Apple has always focused on providing the best products for its consumers, we've never blindly chased market share."

Apple rarely addresses rumors about upcoming products, which often spur intense speculation. Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal cited anonymous sources as saying Apple could release a cheaper iPhone as early as this year.

(Reporting by Edwin Chan; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

CEO Who Threatened To ‘Start Killing People’ Has Gun Permit Suspended

James Yeager, the CEO who recently threatened to "start killing people" if President Barack Obama pursued an expansion on gun control, has had his gun permit suspended.

Authorities with the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security told Newschannel 5 the suspension was based on "material likelihood of risk of harm to the public."

In a statement to the station, Commissioner Bill Gibbons said:

The number one priority for our department is to ensure the public's safety. Mr. Yeager's comments were irresponsible, dangerous, and deserved our immediate attention. Due to our concern, as well as that of law enforcement, his handgun permit was suspended immediately. We have notified Mr. Yeager about the suspension today via e-mail. He will receive an official notification of his suspension through the mail.

Yeager raised some eyebrows after posting a video to YouTube Wednesday. In the clip he said increased gun control measures would "spark a civil war" and he would "be glad to fire the first shot."

The video originally ended with Yeager stating, "If it goes one inch further, I'm going to start killing people." He has since deleted that portion of the video, but an original version, captured by Raw Story, is still viewable below.

Yeager is the CEO of Tactical Response, a Tennessee company that teaches people weapons handling and other tactical skills.

In a video statement released on YouTube Thursday, Yeager acknowledges, "I was mad when I said it and probably allowed my mouth to overrun my logic, but I don't retract any of my statements."

WATCH the original video [via Raw Story]:
WARNING ADULT LANGUAGE

Karen Hinton: Banks Are Holding Us Hostage

A Republican president allowed banks to screw us royally, and a Democratic one is letting them get away with it.

I just put down The New York Times and am thoroughly depressed, after reading about how banks not only ripped off homeowners by making abusive loans, ripped off the global economy, putting millions out of work, and then ripped off homeowners again with illegal foreclosures, but they also sabotaged the foreclosure review process, designed to make things right for homeowners.

The nation's 10 largest banks are holding us hostage, and no one in government has been willing to stand up to them, except for a handful of women and only one of them remains in office: Elizabeth Warren, the U.S. Senator from Massachusetts.

Sheila Bair, formerly FDIC Chair, and Brooksley Born, former Commodities Futures Trading Commission Chair, took them on in the run-up to the economic crisis, but they left their positions after being scolded by Mr. Know-It-All and Wall Street apologist Tim Geithner, who basically told them to shut up and behave like good little girls during their service in government.

According to The New York Times, the foreclosure review process has been a gigantic mess, funneling more money to the consultants running it than to homeowners who have lost or are trying to save their homes.

Here are my questions:

If we can't trust banks to run a foreclosure review process with some amount of precision, how in the heck do we expect them to run the world's financial systems and not take us for a deep dive again?

If the federal regulators can't oversee a foreclosure review process and force the banks to run it properly, then how in the heck do we expect the regulators to regulate the Dodd-Frank reforms that are supposed to protect us from the banks, running the world already, in the future?

And, if Geithner as Treasury Secretary refused to hold both banks and their regulators accountable, why do we think Jack Lew will, being cut from the exact same cloth?

Lew, a former Citigroup executive, strikes me as just another soulless apologist for Wall Street. I don't know much about Lew, but what I do know tells me he is a bean counter who cares more about his numbers adding up on the page than helping people when they are in a time of need -- like families wrongly thrown out of their homes.

I hope I am wrong. I hope Lew will do what Geithner and President Obama refused to do or, at best, was not successful at doing: making sure banks play by the same rules as everyone else.

Already, though, banking regulations are being twisted in the big banks' favor. Even the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has signed onto the "safe harbor" provision that saves -- not consumers -- but the big banks from being sued by home borrowers if it's later determined banks sold them an abusive loan. No other industry has such a "safe harbor" but we give it up to them because, simply put, they are holding us hostage.

If they don't prosper, our economy doesn't prosper.

But both the Bush and Obama Administrations have gotten it completely backward.

If our economy doesn't prosper, then the banks shouldn't either but, somehow, they always manage it. See today's latest headline.

Dem Governor Targets Money In Politics

WASHINGTON -- In each of his three State of the State addresses, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has given increasing levels of detail to his support for campaign finance reform in the Empire State. He has gone from calling for public financing in 2011 to laying out a comprehensive plan to fix the state's system of funding campaigns, viewed as one of the worst in the nation, in this year's address.

"We must enact campaign finance reform because people believe that campaigns are financed by someone else at exorbitant rates," Cuomo said Wednesday in his annual speech.

The governor's recent words have cheered groups working to pass campaign finance reform, including public matching funds for candidates, in New York state.

"We definitely have the best chance of winning than we ever have before," said Charlie Albanetti, communications director of Citizen Action NY, a grassroots organization at the center of organizing reform support over the better part of the last decade.

Campaign finance reform hinges on the backing of Democrats in the New York state Senate, where it faces near universal opposition from Republicans. The state Senate is currently run by a bipartisan coalition of Republicans and Independent Democrats; many of the latter have previously voiced support for public financing. As for the Democratic-controlled Assembly, it has passed public financing more than once in the past.

Support for comprehensive reform that includes public financing is very strong among ordinary New Yorkers, according to a Dec. 13-17 poll commissioned by the Public Campaign Action Fund, a pro-reform national campaign finance watchdog. The poll found more than 70 percent support for reform, including public financing, among Democrats, Republicans and independents in the state. Even when presented with a negative description of the reform proposal, as a waste of taxpayer dollars and welfare for politicians, those surveyed still strongly supported reform.

"Based on this widespread support for reform, we now have a situation where the elected officials in Albany are starting to realize that this is a priority for the people of New York," said Adam Skaggs, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice.

Much of this confidence is based on the burst of activity that followed the governor's 2012 State of the State speech, the first in which Cuomo delved into the specifics of comprehensive campaign finance change. Traditional reformers from labor, environmental and progressive groups ramped up their organizing, and new groups brought their time and money into the fight.

Cuomo began to detail last year and expanded further in Wednesday's speech on a package of reforms, including the implementation of public financing for state elections based on the New York City model, lower limits on contributions, real-time disclosure of campaign-related activity and anti-pay-to-play laws to prevent corruption in state contracting.

The newest piece of the governor's reform package is a call for disclosure of all contributions within a 48-hour period after they are made. "We would apply this to all political and lobbying organizations -- PACs, 501(c)(3)s, 501(c)(4)s that do lobbying, political committees, political parties. Any contribution within 48 hours is disclosed over $500. There is nothing like it in the country," Cuomo said.

These reforms are directed at a system that currently sets the highest contribution limits of any state with limits, offers irregular disclosure rules that allow candidates in some cases to file only once or twice a year, has no disclosure requirements for independent expenditure groups and no laws on pay-to-play, and engages in very spotty enforcement. In recent years, high-profile corruption investigations have targeted New York state officials, including former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno and former Comptroller Alan Hevesi.

In February 2012, the group NYLEAD was organized by New York business leaders and the Brennan Center for Justice to provide a voice in favor of reform from the business community. Members of NYLEAD have engaged on the reform issue by writing op-eds, appearing in local news media and calling lawmakers to express their opinions.

David Calone, CEO of the venture capital firm Jove Equity Partners and a NYLEAD member, said that many of the group's participants are campaign donors themselves, but are fed up with the constant solicitations and the amount of time lawmakers put into fundraising.

Calone also argued that legislators' reliance on major campaign cash from business interests ultimately distorts the free market.

"The market should be a competition of ideas and products with a level playing field, but if folks are able to make contributions and have their voice heard in terms of tilting the rules, then we're not really in a capitalist free market society, are we?" Calone said. "It's who's able to use their megaphone of campaign donations to get heard by different elected officials, and you have their issues take priority."

Investor Sean Eldridge and his husband Chris Hughes, the Facebook co-founder and owner of The New Republic, also created the nonprofit group Protect Our Democracy after Cuomo's 2012 State of the State speech. Protect Our Democracy is looking to duplicate the kind of campaign that brought money and public pressure to help move votes in favor of gay marriage in the state Senate in 2011.

Campaign finance reform differs from gay marriage in one key respect: It's not a divisive issue among New York voters.

"The major difference between this and gay marriage is there isn't going to be that kind of consequence," said Jonathan Soros, the founder of Friends of Democracy, a campaign finance reform super PAC and a member of NYLEAD. "You're dealing with an issue that has north of 70 percent statewide support among both Democrats and Republicans."

Soros' Friends of Democracy, which spent nearly $2 million on the federal elections in 2012, will not shy away from helping out members of either party that vote in favor of reform.

"Although I'm reasonably identifiable as a Democrat in my political activities, I am totally agnostic in terms of who to support and whom not to support as it relates to this issue," Soros said. "I have no qualms with supporting a Republican who does the right thing on getting this done."

And supporting a Republican may be necessary. Currently, power in the Senate hinges on one undecided election between Republican George Amedore Jr. and Democrat Cecelia Tkaczyk. The race, which ended with Amedore up by just 40 votes, is being challenged in court over uncounted ballots.

"A lot hinges on that election because the math is so close quite frankly. If the Democrat wins in that seat, we have a majority of seats in the Senate who support a public financing system given past statements," said Albanetti of Citizen Action NY.

However the final Senate election shakes out, reformers hope that the governor will use his own popularity, along with the same legislative skill he deployed to push gay marriage, to move campaign finance reform through the Senate. To the extent Cuomo is focused on his political future beyond New York, he could benefit from another major success on an issue of importance to Democrats nationwide.

If reform happens in New York, campaign finance supporters on Capitol Hill should get a boost, said the Brennan Center's Skaggs.

"We think that New York is a big enough state -- it's an important state -- and we believe that if Governor Cuomo's leadership can get reform done here, it'll provide a model for the rest of the country, and it will show Washington that this is really a realistic measure that we can get them to do," Skaggs said.

Why Microsoft May Have Missed A Major Opportunity This Month

LAS VEGAS -- Microsoft may have relinquished its starring role in America's gaudiest gadget show a year too early.

After 13 straight years in the spotlight, Microsoft's decision to scale back its presence at this week's International CES deprived the software maker of a prime opportunity to explain and promote a new generation of redesigned computers running its radically remade Windows operating system.

The missed chance comes at a time when Microsoft Corp. could use a bully pulpit to counter perceptions that Windows 8 isn't compelling enough to turn the technological tide away from smartphones and tablets running software made by Apple Inc. and Google Inc.

"They needed to be at this show in a very big way to show the progress they have made and what is it about 2013 that is going to make consumers really gravitate toward a Windows 8 machine," said technology industry analyst Patrick Moorhead.

Since Windows 8 went on sale in late October, there has been little evidence to suggest the operating system will lift the personal computer industry out of a deepening downturn. Worldwide PC shipments during the final three months of last year dropped 6 percent from the same period in 2011, according to the research firm International Data Corp. The dip occurred despite the bevy of Windows 8 laptops and desktop machines that were on sale during the holiday shopping season.

Microsoft, though, insists things worked out at just fine during CES, even though it didn't have a booth and only had a smattering of executives at the sprawling trade show, which drew some 156,000 people to Las Vegas.

The company, which is based in Redmond, Wash., decided it no longer makes sense to invest as much time and money in CES as it once did. The company says the show's early January slot doesn't mesh with the timing of its major product releases. Windows 8, for instance, was still more than nine months away from hitting the market when Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer kicked off last year's CES with a keynote address that was billed as the company's swan song at the show.

"We are very comfortable with our decision," Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw said. "It has been a productive show for us this year."

Microsoft's retreat from CES puzzled some attendees curious about Windows 8. For instance, when Michael Sullivan showed up at computer maker Asus' booth, which was stocked with Windows 8 computers, there was no one around to discuss the machines or the software.

"This is unusual," said Sullivan, CEO of computer sales firm Spec 4 International Inc. "I don't understand why a successful company isn't bringing executives here."

Asus invited some CES attendees to learn more about Windows 8 at a nearby hotel, away from the show's main trade show. Asus has left its booth unmanned in previous years at CES, but the void wasn't as noticeable when Microsoft's own representatives were canvassing the floor.

NPD DisplaySearch analyst Richard Shim thought Microsoft should have had more people helping to staff its partners' booths because, he said, no one understands how Windows 8 works better than the company that made it.

"Whenever you have a new product rolling out, it's always helpful to communicate your message directly as opposed to counting on your partners," Shim said.

Microsoft elected to curtail its CES presence largely because the show's marketing value has diminished. In recent years, companies such as Apple and Google have shown that they can command more attention by holding their own exclusive events to unveil products just before they go on sale. Neither Apple nor Google had a major presence at CES.

In a sign that it is embracing its rivals' strategy, Microsoft staged separate events last year in Los Angeles and New York to unveil Surface, a Windows-powered tablet computer, and Windows 8.

Nevertheless, both Shim and Moorhead believe would have been better off waiting until after this year's CES to surrender its top billing on the marquee. That way, Ballmer could have used this year's opening CES keynote to talk about Windows 8's advantages as a finished product.

"Ballmer could have talked about the operating system more completely and built more hype around it, especially since Microsoft has been getting beaten up so far over Windows 8's performance," Shim said.

When Ballmer ended Microsoft's 13-year streak of kicking off CES, he was only able to provide a peek at a makeover of the operating system that was still months away from being completed.

Microsoft touts Windows 8 as a breakthrough that will enable people to straddle the divide between personal computers and tablets. The revamped operating system is built to respond to the touch of a finger so it can work on tablet computers while still retaining the ability to respond to commands from keyboards and mice on laptop and desktop machines. To take advantage of Windows 8's versatility, many PC makers are building convertible devices that can work as a tablet or a laptop.

But reviews of the new operating system have been lukewarm. Critics have been panning it as too confusing and cumbersome.

Microsoft used part of a CES technology forum presented by J.P. Morgan to try to build more enthusiasm. The company revealed that 60 million copies of Windows 8 have been sold so far, putting it on the same pace as the previous version – Windows 7 – at the same juncture of its release. But it's unclear how many of those Windows 8 licenses are installed on computers that are still sitting in stores or warehouses.

Investors have been so unimpressed with the reception to the new Windows products that Microsoft's stock price has slipped 4 percent since the operating system's Oct. 26 release. Meanwhile, the bellwether Standard & Poor's 500 index has gained 4 percent. Microsoft's stock closed Friday at $26.83, up 37 cents.

A clearer picture of the early reception to Windows 8 may emerge Jan. 24 when Microsoft is scheduled to report its earnings for the three months spanning the holiday shopping season.

Although he wasn't the main attraction, Ballmer made a cameo appearance during Qualcomm Inc. CEO Paul Jacobs' opening address at this year's show.

Ballmer's acceptance of Qualcomm's invitation to join Jacobs on stage surprised some people because Qualcomm has emerged as a threat to Intel Corp., a longtime Microsoft ally that makes most of the processors in Windows computers. Instead of touting Windows 8, Ballmer spent his time hailing a streamlined version of the operating system, dubbed Windows RT, which runs on tablets using processors that rely on technology designed by ARM, another Intel rival.

Microsoft's top executive in charge of technical strategy appeared on stage at Samsung Electronics' invitation to reveal a Windows phone featuring a flexible color display. The electronics of the phone are in a little box, and the thin, bendable screen is attached to it, looking much like a piece of paper.

That left Intel and other Microsoft partners, including PC makers Samsung, Sony, Asus, Acer and Hewlett-Packard Co., to do most of the boasting about Windows 8 at their own CES booths.

"Our partners are doing that very effectively," Shaw said. "You couldn't walk through the (CES) floor without seeing people doing really interesting things with Windows 8."

But there were other times when it appeared Microsoft's partners could have used some help.

Sony exhibitor John Guzman, for instance, seemed stumped when an Associated Press reporter visited the company's CES booth and asked whether a machine running Windows 8 or the more advanced Windows 8 Pro would be a better fit for journalistic work.

"That is more of a Microsoft question," Guzman said, adding that no Microsoft representatives were around.

___

Liedtke reported from San Francisco. AP Technology Writer Peter Svensson contributed to this story.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Is the US Budget ‘Wanton’ and ‘Wild?’ The IMF Says Yes, These Charts Say No

Well, there they go again. Less than a week after its chief economist apologized for wrongly imposing austerity on European nations -- hey, sorry about that, unemployed millions! -- the International Monetary Fund is misleading another country into the miasma of austerity economics: ours.

The IMF released a report which rates nations on their "profligacy" and placed the United States at or near the top. Among other things, this demonstrates that their grasp of language rivals their grasp of economics. To be "profligate" means that you're "wildly extravagant"and "completely given up to dissipation and licentiousness."  Synonyms for "profligate"include "debauched," "degenerate," "depraved," "dissipated," "dissolute," "iniquitous," "lax," "lewd," "libertine," "licentious," "loose," "promiscuous," "reprobate," "shameless," "unprincipled," "vicious," "vitiated," "wanton," "wicked" "and "wild."

I don't think they're suggesting that the halls of Washington rival Caligula's court. Nobody's marrying their sister, opening a brothel, or installing a horse in the Senate. (Although, to be fair, it couldn't do much worse than the current minority.)

The Real Debauch

The far right (which is to say, all of the American right) will love this idea, of course. It plays into all their worst prejudices. But is the United States government really on a wild spending spree? Poverty's at record levels and so is unemployment.  

The truth is, we don't have a spending problem at all. Then what is our problem? This is: We're coddling corporations and indulging the wealthy.

Repeating the IMF's poorly-chosen label is like calling Mom and Dad "profligate" for trying to feed Grandma after their billionaire nephew stole the car, the home and the bank accounts.

We've got the charts to prove it.

Words Matter

The IMF report calls us "profligate" because we're imbalanced between the amount of money our government collects and the amount it spends. But, as Howard Schneider notes in the Washington Post, Denmark offers much better social benefits than the U.S. and isn't called "profligate" because it collects the revenues to pay for it.

Still, the term's a loaded one and shouldn't have been used. It won't lead to a serious debate about tax revenues in this country, and we're certainly not having one now.We're fixated on spending, and the revenue side of the discussion has been narrowed so radically that the only debate going on in Washington is over which six-figure income will be taxed at a historically low rate of 39.5 percent.

Let's go to the charts. First up:

1. We spend very little on government in this country.

USG govt expenditure lower

And remember, we spent a trillion dollars on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan during this period, along with a lot of other unnecessary military spending. (The Pentagon takes roughly one-fifth of the government's budget.)

2. Government spending went up after Wall Street crashed the economy -- because it had to.(Revenues went down, too.)

GOVT SPENDING SPIKE

(via Business Insider)

3. But taxes in this country are actually low ...

US LOWER TAXES

Source: Center for American Progress

4. -- especially for the well to do, who are paying historically low rates ...

LOW TOP TAX RATES

5. ... and especially for the really rich, who are paying much less than in the past  (even at the new tax rates) ...

Taxes superrich

 

6. ... while also reaping most of the benefits of our so-called 'recovery' ...

Most income gains wealthy

7. ... as everybody else loses out.

Declining median incomes
Meanwhile ...

8. We don't have our jobs back.

Job loss post recession

Courtesy Bill McBride, Calculated Risk 

9. To make matters worse, governments (Federal, state and local) are cutting  jobs rather than adding them -- and our deficit debate's about how many more to cut.

Where the jobs are

(via the New York Times)

And as you can see, the jobs we are getting are going to the financial and professional classes, or to low-paying types of employment.

10. There's a relationship between unemployment and deficits ...

Jobs and defici

 

(courtesy Business Insider)

... and yet the so-called 'deficit hawks' are ignoring unemployment and cynically hawking even lower corporate tax rates. Nobody's calling them on it, even though ....

11. ... the corporate taxes we collect now (as opposed to the pre-loophole 'statutory tax rates) are extremely low.

Corp tax

12. They're also targeting Social Security benefits, which don't contribute to the deficit and are already lower than most developed countries' ...

SS compared

 

13. ... while ignoring the trade deficit, which spiked in today's report.

Trade deficit
(U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Census Bureau)

And yet they're treated like serious commentators, rather than cynical corporate hacks, by most (if not all) of the mainstream media.

14. They're successfully distracting us from our real problems.

GOOGLE NEWS STORIES
We created this chart today after running Google News searches on five topics (they were also labeled "United States" to exclude other nations' results).

The Federal deficit is getting much greater coverage than any other topic -- it received nearly twice as much coverage as the trade deficit, even though the trade figures were released today and showed a surprising setback for the United States -- one which means more unemployment and less growth. The "deficit" topic got more than twice the coverage unemployment received, and nearly three times as much coverage as "long-term unemployment."

"Wealth inequity" and "wage stagnation," which are destroying the American middle class, didn't even make the grade.

All Apologies

At this rate, only concerted action can stop the trend toward more of the same austerity madness that has wounded Europe -- and us -- thanks to the misguided guidance we keep receiving from institutions like the IMF -- which will no doubt 'apologize' for this absurd report someday too -- long after the damage has been done.