Emily Schwartz Greco

Greening America’s Energy Workforce

Oil permeates the whole economy. Even if you telework in a solar-powered home and tote your groceries home by bicycle, the price of petroleum affects what you spend on goods and services. This impact, of course, is uneven. The collapse from $105 per barrel last summer to as little as $37.75 in late August in U.S. oil prices brought relief to wallets across America — while kneecapping the industry’s profits and costing tens of thousands of workers their jobs. But one tiny segment of the oil workforce isn’t hurting. The buck stopped elsewhere for ExxonMobil CEO Rex W. Tillerson, who pocketed $33.1 million in 2014. ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan M. Lance raked in $27.6 million, netting an 18 percent raise. And Chevron CEO John S. Watson, whose company recently cut 1,500 jobs, took home $26 million.

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Isaiah J. Poole

More Proof Workers Are More Productive But Less Rewarded

Today’s positive economic news that worker productivity in the second quarter of 2015 was better than expected – up at an annual rate of 3.3 percent – underscores a fundamental question about today’s economy: If workers are increasingly productive, why aren’t they increasingly well paid for it? The fact that workers aren’t being rewarded for their productivity gains is well documented in a report released today by the Economic Policy Institute. According to its survey of worker productivity and wage trends since the 1970s, workers have only gained a tiny share of the rewards of productivity gains. The rest have gone to corporate CEOs and owners, and that has been the major contributor to the widening “income inequality” gap between workers and the top 1 percent of income earners.

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Bill Scher

A Win For Peace

The Iran deal will not be scuttled by Congress, now that President Obama has secured the support of enough Senate Democrats to sustain any veto of any attempt to strip Obama of his authority to waive sanctions. It’s a historic win for peace and diplomacy. Unlike military victories, diplomatic wins are rarely cherished contemporaneously and only slightly more so with the passage of time. Jimmy Carter was booted out of the office despite his Herculean efforts to forge the Camp David Accords and his wise decision to relinquish the Panama Canal. We don’t remember Bill Clinton for the Good Friday Agreement, ending 30 years of strife between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We don’t remember what Harry Truman did to establish the United Nations, let alone the name of the Secretary of State who did most of the heavy lifting.

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Richard Eskow

The “Cadillac” Tax is Coming, And Could Hit Your Midsize Health Plan

According to new projections from the Kaiser Family Foundation, one in four employers will be hit with the Affordable Care Act’s insurance excise tax when it takes effect in 2018. The tax, sometimes called the “Cadillac” or “Cadillac plan” tax, could affect as many as 42 percent of all employers within 10 years. Larger employers, who typically offer better benefits, are more likely to face the tax. That means that nearly half of all American workers – who have already been hit hard by rising out-of-pocket health care costs – could wind up paying more for medical care by 2028. With 48 percent of the country currently covered by employer health insurance, and larger employers more likely to be taxed, as many as 70 to 80 million people could be affected. There must be a better way to run a health care system.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Business Lobby Is Denied Overtime To Kill Overtime Rule

This is the final week that the Labor Department is accepting comments on a proposed rule that would make some 5 million additional workers eligible for overtime pay for working more than 40 hours a week. A last-ditch effort to give businesses more time to campaign to defeat the rule was rejected today by the Department of Labor. The overtime rule is a big deal for workers who earn as little as $24,000 a year in salaried positions – they are called managers but very little of what they actually do could be considered “managerial.” These are the people who stock store shelves, keep facilities clean, help serve food and do any number of other tasks that are typically done by hourly workers. But by calling these workers managers, they can require them to work virtually unlimited hours – as many as 70 or 80 hours a week – without giving them a dime in additional pay.

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Bill Scher

How The Planned Parenthood Attack May Result In More Government Stimulus

Before conservatives became unhinged over Planned Parenthood, the odds on another government shutdown by the end of September were decent. In February, President Obama proposed a budget that increased military and non-military domestic spending. In the spring, Congress passed a budget resolution, without any Democratic votes, that increased military spending while cutting social spending. No substantive negotiations have occurred to bridge the gap as the September 30th deadline looms. Now conservatives are accelerating a shutdown showdown, and are weakening their own hand in the process. As I explained at Real Clear Politics, Sen. Ted Cruz is urging Republicans to refuse to back any bill funding the government that leaves in place funding for Planned Parenthood, and at least 18 House Republicans so far have agreed. But since Sen.

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Bernie Horn

Common Core “Results” Aren’t Actually Test Scores

A few states have now released results from the Common Core standardized tests administered to students last spring. The Associated Press recently published a story about them, and over the next couple of months we can expect a flood of press releases, news articles and opinion columns bragging about the “success” of these tests. But nearly all the news and opinion pieces will be wildly misleading. That’s because Common Core “results” aren’t actually test scores. In fact, the numbers tell us more about the states’ test scorers than they do about schoolchildren. Consider the AP story, for example.

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Sam Pizzigati

In Search of Our First Trillionaire

White House hopeful Bernie Sanders has been doing his best lately to place America’s “billionaire class” right at the center of the nation’s political discourse. But Phoenix-based attorney Bob Lord would like to see the nation start contemplating the next chapter in the ongoing concentration of America’s wealth: the emergence of our first trillionaires. Lord doesn’t stand alone. Other observers also see trillionaires — billionaires a thousand times over — in our future. Last year, for instance, CNBC explored whether America’s first trillionaire might arrive in time for that network’s 2039 50th anniversary. But Lord may be doing more than any other analyst to track the trends bringing trillionaires ever closer.

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Leo Gerard

Killing Uncle AL

Specialty metals manufacturer ATI reinvented itself in recent years. Instead of serving as a vital organ in the dozen communities where it operates mills, it decided to be a boil, blight – a bane upon civic life in six states. Communities once cherished their ATI specialty mills and the feeling was reciprocated. Managers knew mill workers by name, lived in the same towns and fulfilled civic responsibilities. The mills contributed to scout troops and fire departments. Townspeople referred to the plants as Uncle AL, for Allegheny Ludlum, the name before its Aug. 15, 1996 merger with Teledyne that created ATI. But now ATI is butchering that time-honored relationship.  It has demanded tax abatements and special electrical rates and forced excessive overtime on weary workers.

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Terrance Heath

The Populist Agenda Is An Electable Agenda

Whether you believe Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is an “electable” presidential candidate, the populist agenda Sanders has placed at the center of his campaign is absolutely an electable agenda. Once considered the longest of long-shot candidates, Sanders — the only “self-described socialist,” and longest serving independent member of Congress — has surged close to front-runner status in the Democratic race. He’s now the top choice of 30 percent of Iowa Democrats likely to vote in caucuses next year; that’s just seven points behind Hillary Clinton, who was beating Sanders 57 percent to 16 percent in late May. In New Hampshire, where he was 39 points behind in March, Sanders now has a seven-point lead over Clinton. All of this has made the Democratic establishment nervous that Sanders could prove a serious challenge to Clinton, once the presumptive nominee.

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Jeff Bryant

Jonathan Kozol Explains What’s Wrong With Health Care And Education

I don’t think anyone who read “Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools” by Jonathan Kozol would easily forget it. It took me, a child of the leafy suburbs of affluent North Dallas, to a place that was unimaginably cruel and dehumanizing, where schools go without basic needs, such as heat, textbooks, running water and functioning bathrooms; where there are holes in the floors and ceilings, dead rodents and roaches in classrooms, plaster falling from walls into the hallways, and sewage invading the lunchroom. These were the schoolhouses I never knew existed, that low-income black and brown children attended in ghettoized cities across America – a sharp rebuke to a generally agreed-upon narrative in the media at the time that so much progress had been made in America on race.

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Mary E. King

The Myth of a Better Iran Deal

The nuclear deal that the United States and its international partners reached with Iran achieved what it set out to do: prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. This is not solely a White House talking point. Seventy-five nuclear experts have now voiced their support for the deal in addition to top U.S. scientists, generals and admirals,ambassadors, national security experts, and the Israeli security establishment — all of whom agree that the bargain will block all pathways for Iran to build a nuclear weapon. The agreement is rock solid. As a joint bipartisan statement from a group of national security leaders says, “We . . .

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Dave Johnson

What Bernie Sanders Has Already Won

When Sen. Bernie Sanders initially began running for president, his hope was to “trigger the conversation” about the way the economic and political system is rigged by the billionaires and their corporations. He wanted to begin a movement around a vision of how the country could be run for We the People instead of a few billionaires and their giant corporations, and give that movement momentum. That was the idea; start a movement out of a campaign that could get a “for-the-people” message out. All the people he brought in would take it from there. The arguments that would prompt Sanders to contemplate not running were clear and compelling. Sanders wasn’t going to be getting the huge-dollar donations that keep so many other candidates going.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: Have They No Decency?

Wingnut reactions to the on-air shooting of two Roanoke, Virginia journalists brings to mind the famous question Joseph N. Welch asked Sen. Joseph McCarthy: “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” No, they don’t. It didn’t take long for right-wingers to jump on the shooting of Roanoke, Virginia reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward — broadcast live on the air, and shared on social media by the gunman and former coworker. As usual, what they had to say was either ridiculous, offensive, or both.

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Robert Borosage

The Economy: Beneath the Din

Donald Trump’s “barstool eruptions” fill the news shows, but Trump seems tame compared to the economic headlines. The stock market craters and then bounces back. Growth for the second quarter is revised up to 3.7%, even as CBO revises its projection for this year down from 2.9% to 2.0%. The dollar is up and inflation is down, yet the Federal Reserve is talking itself into hiking interest rates. The owner of our office building decided to put TVs into the elevators, all tuned loudly to the babbling heads on CNBC. One thing is clear amid the din: these economic weathervanes don’t have a clue which way the wind is blowing. So to help clear the murk, here’s a bit of common sense. The Stock Market Isn’t the Economy Stock prices don’t reflect the real economy. They can soar while the economy sinks or vice versa. They don’t measure how Americans are faring.

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Bernie Horn

Key Progressive Victories in States and Localities

With the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives controlled by the right wing, it’s no wonder that this Congress has been among the least productive in our nation’s history. But while Congress treads water, some real progress has been made in states and localities across America. Progressive legislators, council members and commissioners are leading some cutting-edge policy debates and enacting a series of innovations, protections and reforms. Let’s recognize some of the top progressive legislative accomplishments so far this year: ● Minimum Wage—Los Angeles became the largest city in America to adopt a $15 per hour minimum wage, following the lead of Seattle, San Francisco and Oakland, which passed such legislation last year. In addition, Kentucky Governor Steven Beshear, by executive order, set a new minimum wage for state employees.

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Robert Borosage

Trump’s Tropes

In the dog days of August, the news channels have turned themselves into the Trump show. Bernie Sanders rouses the biggest crowds in obscurity while Trump floods the air waves. Commentators still dismiss Trump as a summertime fling, a bad boy escape before voters settle down with a serious choice. But Trump is more than a celebrity. He has earned his high disapproval rates, but he also enjoys support across the Republican party. His ugly posturing over immigration expresses the fears and anger of much of the Republican base. And unlike his rivals, he speaks to the discontent of American voters more generally, particularly white male voters. Trump’s tropes are not simply ravings. They are making a case that many Americans want to hear.

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Jeff Bryant

People Don’t Like Current Education Policies, So Why Do Policy Leaders?

The big annual poll on how Americans view public schools and education policy is out, and anyone eager to don the mantle of “education reform” might want to rethink their wardrobe. As education journalist Valerie Strauss reports the news from her blog at The Washington Post, “The 47th annual PDK-Gallup poll, the longest continuously running survey of American attitudes toward public education … finds that a majority of Americans, as well as a majority of American public school parents, object to some of the key tenets of modern school reform.” What was particularly jarring about the findings of this year’s PDK-Gallup poll is how much those results contrast to the pronouncements of current policy leaders from the Democratic Party and Republicans who are vying for their party’s presidential nomination.

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Isaiah J. Poole

4 Percent Growth Doesn’t Look So Crazy When You’re At 3.7 Percent

A few weeks ago, liberal critics jumped on Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s suggestion that he could get the nation’s economy to grow at a 4 percent annual rate. They not only criticized the policies he proposed to get there; they criticized the goal itself as unrealistic. No “serious economist” would consider 4 percent annual growth “within the realm of possibility,” White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Jason Furman told CNBC at the time. With that as the backdrop, consider today’s news from the Commerce Department that during the second quarter of this year, the economy grew at an annual rate of 3.7 percent. That’s up from an earlier estimate of 2.3 percent annual growth. Now, that is based on three month’s worth of economic activity. One quarter does not constitute a trend.

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Terrance Heath

Ten Years After Katrina, Poor And Black People Still Left Behind

When President Obama visits New Orleans today to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, he will find the city whiter, wealthier, and more unequal than it was before the storm. Eight years ago, then senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama visited New Orleans, two years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, and promised to prioritize rebuilding the city’s health care infrastructure and overhaul its school system. President Obama will celebrate some degree of success in fulfilling those promises, but the problems that piled tragedy upon tragedy in New Orleans — before, during and after the storm — have persisted and worsened in the 10 years since the hurricane. Before Katrina, African Americans made up a significant percentage of the city’s poor population. These most vulnerable residents suffered the worst harm from the storm.

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