Robert Borosage

The Mainstream Meets Occupy

The 1 percent continue to capture virtually all of the income growth in the country, while the average incomes of the 99 percent continue to fall. And Americans know it. In a January Pew poll, 92 percent report that their incomes are sinking or treading water. This Occupy reality increasingly sets the frame for our political debate, with leaders of both parties adopting populist rhetoric, acknowledging that making this economy work for working people – the sinking “middle class” – is the central question of our day. President Obama’s State of the Union address put down a Democratic marker in this debate. Sen. Bernie Sanders published a summary from the populist wing. Now a new report by a commission convened by the Center for American Progress provides a leading indicator of where Hillary Clinton is heading.

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Bill Scher

Cruz, Paul and Rubio Try To Discuss Inequality. Wackiness Ensues.

Last week, three Republican senators expected to run for president, Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida, sat for an extended roundtable discussion with ABC’s Jonathan Karl. While it was hosted by the Koch brothers organization Freedom Partners, Karl’s questioning was pointed and the answers were revealing. The full transcript shows in stark relief how Republicans are trying, and failing, to be seen as the party of the middle class. All three are eager to catch the populist wave and blame income inequality on President Obama. But all three were incapable of reckoning with how Republicans have long failed the middle class and proving that they had learned lessons from the past.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: From Rogue to Reject

This week, we saw the beginning of the end of conservatives’ love affair with Sarah Palin (maybe), and almost said farewell (but probably not goodbye) to a regular on “Wingnut Week In Review.” From Rogue to Reject It took them long enough. After her incoherent, meandering speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit, conservatives figured out what the rest of us always knew about Sarah Palin. To quote Gertrude Stein: There is no “there” there. To be fair, not all conservatives were late to the party. Shortly after John McCain inflicted Sarah Palin on the American public, a live mic caught columnist Peggy Noonan saying exactly what was up. We know the rest of the story.

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Dave Johnson

Stop The Paul-Boxer Tax Holiday; It May Already Be A Job-Killer

Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) have teamed up and introduced a bill to let multinational corporations hiding profits in tax shelters off from paying most of the taxes they owe on those profits. In other words, they are offering companies a big, fat reward for coming up with tax schemes that cheat We the People out of a way to pay for the roads, schools, ports, military and the rest of the things (democracy) we provide these corporations to enable them to prosper. And here’s a big question right now: Doesn’t this bill promising a “repatriation tax holiday” encourage even more companies to move jobs out of the country as fast as they can, so they can take advantage of the proposed tax holiday, too? Take action and tell the Senate: No tax breaks for corporations that shift profits and jobs offshore.

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Meghan Byrd

How Super Bowl Highlights Everything Wrong With For-Profit Universities

The Super Bowl, the Big Game, whatever you call it, the biggest event in American sports will take place this Sunday evening at the University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the famous… wait, what’s that? The University of Phoenix doesn’t have athletic teams, you say? Why would the school put its name on a stadium it can’t use? Herein lies the value of naming rights. The University of Phoenix exemplifies the absurdities of for-profit universities, in this case paying $154 million for naming rights to the stadium hosting the Super Bowl as a marketing ploy instead of spending that money on student education. Most of its students aren’t graduating and are being left with crippling debt, while the university wastes money on shameful publicity strategies.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Barbara Boxer and Rand Paul Create A Tax Monster

Details of the proposal by Sens. Rand Paul (R-Texas) and Barbara Boxer to raise money to pay for surface transportation projects though a corporate tax break scheme are now out – and they are as bad as many progressive tax reform advocates feared. This unlikely marriage of a former Campaign for America’s Future “Progressive Champion” with a libertarian Republican has yielded a Frankenstein of a plan that pardons corporations for their past tax avoidance while making promises that don’t appear to be worth the pixels used to convey them. The details were posted today on Sen. Boxer’s website.

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Meghan Byrd

Labor Relations Board Under Renewed Attack

Conservatives in Congress this week launched a renewed effort to weaken the ability of workers to get justice in the workplace against anti-labor behavior by businesses. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) announced a bill Wednesday that would cripple the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), an agency that is instrumental in solving labor disputes and helping workers who have been treated unfairly by their employers. It’s the same bill that was introduced last year by McConnell and Alexander but was held up in committee when the Senate was controlled by Democrats. Among its recent actions, the NLRB has filed multiple complaints against McDonald’s and its franchisees for illegally punishing workers who were involved in protesting fast-food labor practices. The board currently seats five members – three Democrats and two Republicans.

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Jeff Bryant

Senator Warren Clarifies The Money Matter In Revising NCLB

Where can Democrats find clarity in the current debate over how to rewrite No Child Left Behind legislation? For sure, we appear to be in the midst of is an education policy turmoil where instead of right and left “meeting in the middle,” what we see instead are forces on the right and left coming together to oppose what a bipartisan coalition helped create. Take, for instance, state adoptions of the new Common Core Standards: For years, support for the new national standards was presented as a unifying front, with the Obama administration and numerous Democratic governors joining with prominent Republicans leaders from across the country. But opposition to the new standards from the right-wing of the political spectrum is now famous.

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Alan Jenkins

Supreme Court Argument Reaffirms the Case for Fair Housing Protections

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week in a very important fair housing case, and the Justices’ comments from the bench have had court watchers buzzing ever since. Here’s my take on what the legal back-and-forth in the case does and does not mean. It’s safe to say that the oral argument in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project went very well for supporters of fair housing…and that we have no idea what, if anything, that will mean for the Court’s decision. The argument did make clear, however, how far this Court will have to stray from its established principles if it wants to weaken the Fair Housing Act in this case. Predicting the outcome of a Supreme Court case based on an oral argument is a fool’s errand.

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Dave Johnson

Let’s Take Apart The Corporate Case For Fast Track Trade Authority

U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman appeared before Congress Tuesday to make the corporate argument for “fast track” trade promotion authority. The USTR and President Obama are pushing fast-track pre-approval for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other big “trade” agreements they are working on. The Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable and other corporate groups and lobbyists are also pushing hard for Congress to pass fast track. The promoters of fast track say we need it to push “trade” agreements through Congress to expand trade and increase exports.

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Robert Reich

Wall Street’s Threat to the American Middle Class

Presidential aspirants in both parties are talking about saving the middle class. But the middle class can’t be saved unless Wall Street is tamed. The Street’s excesses pose a continuing danger to average Americans. And its ongoing use of confidential corporate information is defrauding millions of middle-class investors. Yet most presidential aspirants don’t want to talk about taming the Street because Wall Street is one of their largest sources of campaign money. Do we really need reminding about what happened six years ago? The financial collapse crippled the middle class and poor — consuming the savings of millions of average Americans, and causing 23 million to lose their jobs, 9.3 million to lose their health insurance, and some 1 million to lose their homes. A repeat performance is not unlikely. Wall Street’s biggest banks are much larger now than they were then.

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Miya Pontes

Community Groups Fight For More Protections From Payday Loan Predators

In an effort to control the damage being done to individuals and communities by payday lenders, community activists rallied outside payday lending storefronts in 10 states Tuesday to increase awareness of the lack of protection many states offer individuals against purveyors of short-term, high-interest loans. National People’s Action (NPA) helped coordinate the protests along with several other organizations. There were 11 actions across Idaho, Michigan, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Illinois and Nevada calling out the toxic effect payday lenders have on communities.

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Jim Hightower

Not Lovin’ It

McDonald’s is scrambling, and I’m not talking about eggs. Your know your business has what image consultants call “quality perception issues” when your public relations team is fielding such questions as: “Does McDonald’s beef contain worms?” Thornier yet for the world’s largest burger machine is its boneheaded response to the remarkable, ongoing rebellion by fast food workers demanding a $15-an-hour wage and the freedom to unionize without corporate retaliation. McDonald’s responded by — guess what? — retaliating. Its McManagers illegally reduced the hours (and therefore the pay) of hundreds of those who joined the “Fight For 15″ campaign. Many also spied on workers, interrogated and threatened them, and imposed restrictions on their freedom even to talk about unions or working conditions.

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Dean Baker

The Federal Reserve Board and Social Security Disability

The Republican Congress decided to make overhauling the Social Security disability program one of its first orders of business. On the first day of the new session it put in place a rule change that would make it difficult to address the shortfall the program is projected to face some time next year. Republican leaders like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul justified this change by insisting that half the people getting disability had the sort of back aches and occasional anxieties that we all face. The difference is that they get checks from the government rather than working. For this reason, Paul argued the program is in serious need of reform. As several analysts quickly pointed out, there is no basis for Paul’s assertion. Only a relatively small fraction of disability beneficiaries remotely fit Paul’s description of people with backaches and anxiety.

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Richard Eskow

Anti-Koch: The Fight For Green Energy is a Fight for the 99 Percent

The fact that this even needs to be said demonstrates that there’s been a breakdown in the democratic process, but we’ll say it anyway: Our number one priority should be protecting the planet for future generations. That said, green energy makes sense even if we base our thinking on economic considerations alone. Energy policies can roughly be divided into two kinds: those that benefit society as a whole, and those that only benefit the very few – the Koch brothers and their ilk. Guess which kind the GOP supports? Republicans are blocking pro-growth, job-creating green energy investments while pushing a pipeline that would enrich the few at the expense of the many – with potentially disastrous environmental consequences. If you want to know why, follow the money.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Grassroots Push Needed For Sanders’ Infrastructure Bill

In a small room inside the U.S. Capitol, Sen. Bernie Sanders today was trying to marshal support for a $1 trillion infrastructure investment bill he formally introduced today, discussing the consequences of not spending money on our roads, public transportation, water systems and other public assets. Just outside the nation’s capital, those consequences were becoming all too vivid for residents of a working-class neighborhood. A 90-year-old water main, well beyond its expected life span, broke in the town of Bladensburg, Md. early this morning. According to WRC-TV, a family whose home was being flooded by the broken water main sought to escape in their car, only to have the car swallowed up by a sinkhole just as they were about to leave. Miraculously, the family managed to escape without injury.

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Terrance Heath

Greece Proves Populist Movements Can Fight And Win

After five years of protests, demonstrations and strikes, Greek citizens voted to throw off five years of crushing austerity. Their victory has emboldened populist parties across Europe, and should inspire Americans to resist austerity here at home. The victory of Greece’s leftist anti-austerity Syriza party, and Alexis Tsipiras’ ascension to prime minister ushers in a government that will push back against the austerity measures devised by the troika of Greece’s international creditors and the International Monetary Fund, and accepted by the country’s economic elite, after the crash of Greece’s economy in 2009. Greece’s new leaders left little doubt about their intentions as they celebrated victory.

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Dave Johnson

Protesters Disrupt Senate Fast Track Hearing

US Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman testified before the Senate Tuesday. He was there to push Congress to pass Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), so new trade agreements can get pushed through. Protesters disrupted the hearing. The people are trying to make their voices heard over the corporate push for Fast Track. Heating Up Things are heating up as big new corporate “trade” agreements get closer to coming before Congress. These trade agreements have a terrible track record for American workers, because they have driven inequality, devastated entire regions of the country, and hollowed out the middle class.

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Leo Gerard

Voodoo Trickle-Down Be Damned

Reaganomics, the plot to appease the rich and condemn the rest, got its comeuppance last week in President Obama’s State of the Union speech. The President asked: “Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?” That’s the trickle-down economy he’s talking about. And when he said, “spectacularly well,” that understated the great fortune of the very few. Oxfam, the international federation working to end poverty, reported just before the speech that if nothing changes over the next two years, the top 1 percent will hoard more wealth than that held by the entire remaining 99 percent of humans on earth. President Obama made it clear he has no intention of accepting such economic damnation for the vast majority of Americans. He proposed an alternative to Ronnie’s scheme. President Obama called it middle-class economics.

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Mary Green Swig | Steven L. Swig | Richard Eskow

Liberate 41 Million Americans From Student Loan Debt

MaryGreenSwig Steven L.Swig RichardEskow President Obama’s proposal for tuition-free community college education, and the broader discussion that it has inspired, confirms our belief that it is time for a comprehensive solution to a $1.3 trillion problem: student debt in the United States. We strongly support the concept of tuition-free public higher education, and are encouraged by renewed arguments in its favor. But we must also confront what has been done to the last several generations of students. They have been forced to take on debt that is crippling to them, to our economy and our society. A student debt “jubilee” would reflect both the values upon which this nation was founded and the economic principles that have sustained it through its greatest periods of growth and prosperity.

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