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When I say that it's time to make corporations pay their fair share, you're probably thinking taxes. But, if corporations paid back their full debt to society, they'd be paying each of our households about $10,000 bucks a year. That figure comes from Paul Buchheit over at Alternet, and he says, “That estimate is based on facts, not the conservative-style emotion that might deny the responsibility for any debt to the American people.” Using data from the National Science Foundation, Paul calculated that about half of that yearly stipend would be our return for all the public money invested in research. About 30 percent of all development, applied, and basic research is paid for by the tax payers, and thirty percent of $2 trillion in annual corporate profit works out to $5,000 bucks a year for each household. Another two grand would be payment for pollution and other disaster relief costs paid for by John Q. Taxpayer, and it would reimburse the American public for things like drilling for oil on public lands and cleaning up toxic chemical spills. In addition to the $2 trillion dollars stashed in offshore tax havens, corporations rake in tons of cash in direct and indirect subsidies. So, the remaining $3,000 dollars would reimburse us for corporate welfare and tax dodging, like overseas tax havens and government subsidies to giant, corporate industries. When we add all that up, it comes to $10,000 dollars per household, per year – and it's a pretty “small-c” conservative estimate. That's the real price of corporate power in the U.S., and that's a cost being paid by the American public. Corporations used to return these public investments in the form of larger paychecks and pensions and benefits. Today, they simply buy back their own stocks and call workers greedy for demanding a living wage. We give them the opportunity to do business in our great nation, so if the corporations won't pay up the way they used to, perhaps it's time they simply cut each of our households a $10,000 dollar check.

It seems like only yesterday that the “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy came to an end in our military. And now, it appears that one more discriminatory ban may be changed as well. At a recent town hall event in Afghanistan, our new Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that he doesn't believe gender identity should disqualify someone from military service. According to the Williams Institute, there are more than 15,000 transgender active duty servicemembers or reservists, and more than 130,000 transgender retirees and veterans. Many of these individuals were willing to give their lives to defend our country, and they should never have to hide who they are. The question about transgender service came from Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jesse Ehrenfeld, who works with an LGBT military family organization and has cared for many transgender servicemembers as an office in Navy Health Care. Cmdr. Ehrenfeld said, “I am continually struck by how these individuals, who risk their lives every day to support our mission, live not in fear of the enemy, but rather in fear of being discovered for who they are.” Perhaps our newest Defense Secretary will help bring this discrimination to an end.

The frigid temperatures last month were particularly daunting for the homeless. One New York City charity wanted to do something about that, but the Port Authority blocked their efforts. Volunteers from Saxon/Hart went to Grand Central Terminal and other train and bus stations to hand out blankets to the homeless, but they were told that the Port Authority didn't “want the homeless to get too comfortable there.” Temperatures in New York City dropped to single digits in February, and wind chills were even colder. A Saxon/Hart spokesperson said, “We weren't trying to make people more comfortable in the station, we just wanted people not to freeze.” Of course, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey released a statement saying that they are “committed to assisting the homeless,” but their actions say otherwise. In the richest nation on Earth, no one should be freezing to death in the winter, and groups like Saxon/Hart should be applauded – not turned away.

Do you want to know which restaurants pay their workers a living wage? Well, there's an app for that. The ROC United Diner's Guide app will show you the restaurants near you, how they pay workers, and whether or not they provide benefits. And, that app will even allow you to report on the working conditions of restaurants you visit, such as noting server-to-diner ratios and tipping policies. Despite waves of protests and increased social awareness, many food service workers still get paid only $2.13 an hour, and they're taxed on tips they may or may not even earn. While we should never give up the fight to ensure all workers earn a living wage, in the mean time, we can make sure that businesses are rewarded for treating employees well. Restaurants all over our country are moving away from tips and paying all workers well, and we should be giving them our business when we can.

And finally... Students are taking on college debt. Fifteen young people who attended Everest College, a subsidiary of Corinthian, are refusing to pay for the useless degrees they got from that university. Corinthian is under investigation by state and federal officials because of their predatory lending practices, and as such the college is providing students with relief for their private loans. However, the so-called “Corinthian 15” are demanding relief for their federal student loans as well. Nathan Hornes, one of the students who refuses to pay, said, “I did not get the education that I was promised. I did not receive any knowledge that I could use in my day-to-day life, to get a career.” Like graduates of so many for-profit institutions, Nathan and the rest of the Corinthian 15 realized that they were duped, and they're doing something about it. Standing up to for-profit colleges is a great place to start in the fight for affordable higher education.

And that's the way it is - for the week of March 2, 2015 – I'm Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.

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Would You Like Some Crippling Debt with that Degree?

Wall Street-style predatory capitalism has taken over our education system, and it’s absolutely devastating a whole generation of young people.

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