Jeff Bryant

Education’s Newsmaker Of The Year: Charter School Scandals

Since it’s the time of the year when newspapers, websites, and television talk shows scan their archives to pick the person, place, or thing that sums up the year in entertainment, business, sports, or every other venue, why not do that for education, too? In 2014 education news, lots of personalities came and went. Michelle Rhee gave way to Campbell Brown as a torchbearer for “reform.” The comedian Louis C. K. had a turn at becoming an education wonk with his commentary on the Common Core standards. Numerous “Chiefs for Change” toppled from the ranks of chiefdom. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett went down in defeat due in part to his gutting of public schools, as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker remained resilient while spreading the cancerous voucher program from Milwaukee to the rest of the state.

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Robert Borosage

The New Center Democrats: There’s No There There

The debate in the Democratic Party is being framed in much of the mainstream media as a struggle between a “pragmatic center” that wants to “get things done” and an angry populist wing – led by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown and others – that vilifies enemies and creates division. This week, William Galston, a veteran New Democrat scribe, used his perch on the Wall Street Journal op-ed page to second Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in making the case for a “nonpopulist liberalism, more interested in diagnosing conditions than in identifying enemies.” The problem, Galston suggests, is that while populist economics has found its voice, “nonpopulist liberalism” has not. That, he argues, will be the “most important test” for Hillary Clinton’s impending presidential run.

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Richard Eskow

Hillary’s Choice: “Anti-Gridlock” or “Anti-Wall Street”?

We’re told that Hillary Clinton is spurning something her advisers call the “anti-Wall Street” movement and will run instead on a platform of “working across the aisle” with Republicans. Her camp is suggesting, without much evidence and against the lessons of recent history, that she will be more effective at this endeavor than her predecessor. And now they’re using that claim to fight against the Democratic Party’s rising populist wing. Is Hillary Clinton about to repeat Barack Obama’s biggest mistake? In the first two years of his presidency, Obama spoke of compromise, protected Wall Street, and resisted the populist wing of his own party.

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Isaiah J. Poole

What The Death Of Single Payer In Vermont Says About Health Reform

Not surprisingly, the right-wing hot-air blowers are giddy at the news this week that Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has abandoned efforts to set up a state-run single-payer health plan in Vermont. “The risks and economic shocks of moving forward at this time are too great,” he conceded in a letter to state residents about “one of the most difficult decisions of my public life.” But lest the conservative breast-beating gets too exuberant, there is also this news, via the Associated Press, that Arkansas’ conservative “model Medicaid experiment” is in jeopardy. By buying private insurance policies for Medicaid-eligible people instead of adding them to a state-administered Medicaid program, “Arkansas became the first Southern state to expand its Medicaid program in a way that many Republicans found acceptable,” the AP said.

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Robert Reich

The Coin of the Realm: How Inside Traders Are Rigging America

A few years ago, hedge fund Level Global Investors made $54 million selling Dell Computer stock based on insider information from a Dell employee. When charged with illegal insider trading, Global Investors’ co-founder Anthony Chiasson claimed he didn’t know where the tip came from. Chiasson argued that few traders on Wall Street ever know where the inside tips they use come from because confidential information is, in his words, the “coin of the realm in securities markets.” Last week the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which oversees federal prosecutions of Wall Street, agreed. It overturned Chiasson’s conviction, citing lack of evidence Chaisson received the tip directly, or knew insiders were leaking confidential information in exchange for some personal benefit.

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Dave Johnson

Elizabeth Warren Says Fix The TPP Trade Deal

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is emerging as a champion in the fight over provisions the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement that could undermine our (and other) country’s ability to keep the giant multinational corporations under control. One of these provisions is called Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), which sets up a system where corporations can sue governments in “corporate courts” where corporate lawyers decide cases. (Yes, really.) Senator Warren is taking this on. Warren, joined by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman expressing concern over the inclusion of certain provisions in TPP. The Washington Post has the story, in “Elizabeth Warren, other Democrats raise concerns about free-trade pact with Asia“: Sen.

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Terrance Heath

Taking Money From Obamacare Won’t Cure What’s Wrong With Kansas

Conservative economic policy turned Kansas into a “smoking ruin.” Now, a cure for what’s the matter with Kansas is coming from an unexpected source. In 2012, Kansas governor Sam Brownback signed into law a massive tax cut that he said would boost the state’s economy. Brownback even mused about eliminating income taxes altogether. That’s how enthusiastic he was. Conservatives were enthusiastic, too. Kansas was going to show America how it was done, and Sam Brownback would be a serious contender for the presidency. Never mind what we already know about tax cuts. We know what happened. Brownback’s tax cuts gutted Kansas’ budget, costing the state $700 million in lost revenue. Things got so bad that Kansas was reduced to auctioning off repossessed sex toys to help plug the hole in the state’s budget.

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Bill Scher

Is Jeb Bush Too Conservative To Win?

With former Florida Governor Jeb Bush “actively exploring” a run for president, much of the initial analysis centers on the question if he is too moderate to win the Republican primary. The more important question is if Jeb is too conservative to win the general election. It’s true Jeb has taken positions that will complicate his primary campaign. He was supportive of the Senate immigration reform bill and is a big backer of the Common Core education standards, which the right lambastes as federal government intrusion into local schools.

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Dave Johnson

Trade Deal Promises vs. Realities

Again and again we are promised jobs and economy gains from trade deals. Instead we get job losses and trade deficits. Next year the giant multinationals are going to try to sell us another trade deal by promising jobs and prosperity. And they’re going to push fast track to grease the skids to get it passed. It’s a good idea to be informed about what has actually happened. Wednesday’s post, How “Citibank Budget” Push Foreshadows “Fast Track” For Trade Deals, described how fast track is a rigged process designed to essentially pre-approve trade agreements before the public has a chance to digest the text of an agreement. Part of the rigged process will involve the giant multinationals executing a massive public relations campaign to drive the appearance of public support for the agreement. They will promise a huge increase in jobs and prosperity from the treaty.

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Isaiah J. Poole

President Obama’s Decisive Action On Cuba

Last month, CAF co-director Robert Borosage called on President Obama to normalize relations with Cuba as one of the steps he should take to “move good things forward” in the face of a Republican opposition bent on advancing destructive economic policies. Today, President Obama moved decisively in that direction, in a speech in which he acknowledged that it was foolish to continue the 53-year-old set of isolationist policies that have done nothing to improve the lives of the Cuban people or move them closer to a people-powered democracy. “We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result,” President Obama said. The effort to shape Cuba’s political direction by breaking its economy has been an abject failure.

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Bernie Horn

Hope Is in the Cities and States

Over the next two years, Washington will be a horror show. The president and a minority of senators will try to minimize the destruction that extreme conservatives will attempt to inflict on our personal freedoms, basic economic security, and the American Dream. As for good (or even rational) proactive legislation, forget it! But that doesn’t mean we can’t win progressive victories in 2015. We can still dramatically change policy by focusing on states and localities—specifically 18 states that are controlled by Democrats or have split partisan control, about three dozen big cities with blue majorities, and thousands of smaller progressive-controlled cities, towns and counties. For evidence, just look at the past two years.

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Dave Johnson

How “Citibank Budget” Push Foreshadows “Fast Track” For Trade Deals

It is worth examining how the process was rigged to push that budget deal through Congress over the weekend that contained Citibank-written derivative deregulation and all kinds of other goodies for the rich and powerful. That’s because the “cromnibus” formula will be formalized in the next big deal, in a process called “fast track.” Congress passed the “cromnibus” (continuing resolution for omnibus budget) right at the deadline for another government shutdown. (After they extended the deadline, actually.) The budget contained a Citibank-written provision that undoes some Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulations.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Economic Development For The 1 Percent: Tax Incentives Gone Wrong

One might expect that Ayn Rand devotee Eddie Lampert, the CEO presiding over the disintegration of the once-great Sears and Kmart retail stores, would be a zealot when it comes to wriggling out of paying taxes to the governments that serve and protect his properties. But let’s not kid ourselves. What he extracts out of state governments to subsidize his failing empire isn’t “economic development.” It’s more like a rich bully running an extortion racket, like the time in 2011 he persuaded the state of Illinois to give him a $275 million tax subsidy in exchange for not moving Sears’ headquarters out of the state. That one deal, though, is just about half of the $536 million in tax subsidies Sears has gotten from state governments since 1989.

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Dean Baker

Economic Policy Myths of 2014: Dead and Enduring

With the holiday season upon us, the time for end of year lists is fast-approaching. To beat the rush, today I give my list of the top dead and enduring myths of 2014. The good news is that two myths that caused great confusion over the last several years are now headed to the trash bin of history. While many prominent pundits may still repeat them to demonstrate that prominent pundits really don’t have to care about reality, everyone in the reality based community now knows them to be nonsense. The first is the myth of the young invincibles and Obamacare. The story was that the success of Obamacare depending on getting young healthy people to sign up. Supposedly we needed the healthy young’uns to subsidize the rest of the population. This led to endless stories about whether young people were signing up for insurance.

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Leo Gerard

Bad Trade

Under billions of tons of imports, the American dream is suffocating. The American people have lost faith. They know that bad trade has bled factories, middle class jobs and wage increases from the country. A report issued last week by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) details how bad trade has cost Americans hope. And hope is the essence of the American dream, hope for a good, steady job with benefits and a pension, one that supports a family and a home, one that enables the kids to achieve even better lives. Bad trade has battered all of that. And more damage is threatened by pending trade deals and a so-called fast track process to approve them without in-depth deliberation. The EPI report, China, Trade, Outsourcing and Jobs, details the devastation caused by just one trade arrangement, the deal to allow China to enter the World Trade Organization in 2001.

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Robert Borosage

The Bipartisan Cromnibus Saga: A Final Assessment

The government didn’t shut down. Congress passed the massive – 1,603 page – spending bill, chock full of special interest giveaways, to keep the doors open. The Washington Post editorial page, the voice of the conservative establishment, acknowledges all the horrors – but celebrates the results:  “And given the alternatives — which were either this bill and the stable government funding through September that it would bring, or a possible government shutdown followed by repeated budgetary cliffhangers — it’s obvious that the Cromnibus did, indeed, represent a step in the right direction.

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Richard Eskow

Sanders Speaks: Bernie Wants to Break Up the Big Banks

Sen. Bernie Sanders (audio) with Richard Eskow No sooner had the infamous “Citigroup amendment” been added to a vital spending measure than the warnings began. One of the first was from Rob Blackwell, writing in American Banker, who called it “a victory that may soon come to haunt the largest institutions.” Those may prove to be prophetic words, although perhaps not “soon” enough, especially if leading progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders prevail.

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Dave Johnson

What Does Wall Street’s Budget Bill Victory Say About Our Democracy?

The budget bill called the “Cromnibus” (for Continuing Resolution and OMNIBUS budget bill) passed over the weekend. It included a provision undoing part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulation bill, allowing banks to gamble on derivatives using money from taxpayer-protected accounts. Citibank literally wrote the provision and paid someone to put it in the bill. This “Citibank” provision undid months of hard work getting the Dodd-Frank bill in place. No one in the House or Senate would admit to putting it in the bill. No one would say they supported the provision. But House/Senate leadership would not take it out of the bill because it was part of a “deal.” And, of course, it was put in at the last minute, making the choice “vote for it or shut down the government.” OK, this is not a rhetorical question, it is a question to broadcast.

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Sam Pizzigati

America’s 10 Greediest: The 2014 Edition

How has the United States become so unequal? We need to look for answers, first and foremost, in our society’s underlying economic and political realities, at the policies and practices that let wealth concentrate — at the top — so intensely. But we also ought to look at people, the real-life flesh-and-blood characters who make decisions that privilege the few over the many. These greedy souls love the shadows. Let’s shine some light — on this year’s greediest of them all. May the greed we spotlight here help inspire the rest of us to do as much as we can, in 2015, to make our world a much more equal place. 10. Paige Laurie Dubbert: Walmart Wealth Paige Laurie Dubbert, the granddaughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton’s brother and business partner, is charging wage theft.

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Richard Eskow

We Lost the ‘CRomnibus’ Fight, But at Least Someone’s Fighting

Last week Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) warned that “the House of Representatives is about to show us the worst of government for the rich and powerful.” They promptly did, and the Senate quickly followed suit. We are now at greater risk of another derivatives-based financial crisis, and billionaires and corporations now have even more influence over the two party’s entrenched establishments. The “CRomnibus” spectacle was a return to the showdown days of past years, with another phony “drama” ginned up around a “must-pass” bill in order to serve up a “compromise” – a “bipartisan” one, of course – that serves the interests of corporations and wealthy individuals. But hold the cynicism, because all is not yet lost. “A few more such victories and we are undone,” the Greek general Pyrrhus supposedly said.

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