Could U.S. – Russia Agreement on Assad’s Chemical Weapons Lead to Negotiations to End Syria’s Civil War? Interview with Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism project at the Institute for Policy Studies, conducted by Scott Harris
The first independent investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria’s civil war was released by the United Nations on Sept. 16. While the report did not issue a finding on which side was responsible for the use of chemical weapons, it did conclude that surface-to-surface rockets filled with the deadly nerve agent sarin were likely launched from positions controlled by the Syrian government and killed hundreds of civilians in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta on Aug. 21. However, casting doubt on any solid conclusion about who used chemical weapons, the U.N. report noted that while their investigative team was at the Ghouta attack site under the control of rebels, “Individuals arrived carrying other suspected munitions, indicating that such potential evidence is being moved and possibly manipulated.”
Responding to a Kremlin initiative, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov concluded an agreement to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control. Under the timeline, chemical weapons-related production facilities and equipment will be destroyed by this November, and all chemical weapons material are to be eradicated by mid-2014.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, expressed hope that the U.S.-Russian agreement on controlling and destroying Syria’s chemical weapons could spur a new diplomatic effort to negotiate an end to Syria’s bloody 2½- yearlong civil war that has killed more than 100,000 and displaced millions refugees. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism project at the Institute for Policy Studies, who assesses the U.N. report on the use of chemical weapons in Syria and how the U.S.-Russian agreement on destroying Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons could lead to peace talks on ending Syria’s civil war.
Learn more about the New Internationalism project at the Institute for Policy Studies at IPS-DC.org/mideast.
Increased Tax Breaks for Wealthy Diverts Money That Could Benefit Americans in Need
Interview with Mattea Kramer, research director with National Priorities Project, conducted by Melinda Tuhus
Each year since 1974, the White House releases an estimate of the cost of all federal tax breaks, also known as subsidies or tax loopholes. The non-partisan, non-profit National Priorities Project has recently completed a ground-breaking analysis of these federal tax breaks over the past 38 years, revealing they have grown in number and size, diverting money that could otherwise be used in to benefit Americans in need.
The study of tax loopholes is in keeping with the National Priorities Project’s mission to make the complex U.S. federal budget transparent and accessible so people can exercise their rights and responsibilities to influence how their tax dollars are spent.
Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with Mattea Kramer, research director with the National Priorities Project, who explains that this year’s tax breaks cost the U.S. government an estimated $1.13 trillion dollars, just slightly less than all discretionary spending, and substantially more than the budget deficit during the same year. In this second third week of September, which marks the second anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Kramer explains that the richest 1 percent benefit the most from the existing tax code and proposes changes to make the U.S. system of taxation more fair and equitable.
Visit the National Priorities Project at NationalPriorities.org.
Record U.S. Income Inequality Result of Economic Policies Benefiting the 1%
Interview with Richard Eskow, senior fellow with the group Campaign for America’s Future, conducted by Scott Harris
Although income inequality has been rising in the United States over the last 30 years, a new report from economists at the University of California at Berkeley, the Paris School of Economics and Oxford University have found that the wealth gap has now reached record levels. According to analysis of data from the Internal Revenue Service, the top 1 percent of earners in the U.S. pulled in 19.3 percent of total household income in 2012, the largest share for nation’s wealthiest citizens in more than 100 years. The next highest share of wealth taken by the richest was recorded in 1927 at 18.7 percent, two years before the start of the Great Depression. According to the study, incomes among the top one percent rose by 31.4 percent between 2009 and 2012, while incomes for everyone else grew just 0.4 percent. The top ten percent of earners in the economy now control more than half of the nation’s total income.
While the majority of Americans struggle to recover their losses from the Great Recession, that brought with it high unemployment, underemployment, diminished wages and unsustainable debt, the wealthiest Americans have recouped almost all of what they lost as the gap between rich and poor gets ever wider. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Richard Eskow, a former Wall Street executive who is now a senior fellow with the Campaign for America’s Future. Here he analyzes the data on record income inequality, the economic policies that predictably led to this disparity and the changes necessary to reverse course.
Find links to more analysis and commentary on income inequality in the U.S. at Campaign for America’s Future at http://ourfuture.org.