Dave Johnson

The Republican Budgets CUT Infrastructure Spending

We all know America’s infrastructure is crumbling. Meanwhile, millions of people still need jobs. But in one more of many stunning examples of failure to govern, the Republican budget proposals cut back infrastructure funding even more. Tax cuts have resulted in years of cutbacks in maintenance that have taken their toll. Bridges are falling, dams are dangerous, port conditions are holding back trade, etc. This is work that has to be done. Doing this work would require hiring millions of people — also something that has to be done. Fixing up our infrastructure would lead to a more efficient economy, better able to help American businesses thrive, and our people prosper. One would think that the country would embark on a project to fix and modernize its infrastructure. But no, that would involve government spending. Never mind that it would more than pay for itself.

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Bernie Horn

The Indiana Law Promoting Discrimination Is a New Low

Last week, Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R) signed SB 101 into law, the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” Apparently, Pence was surprised at the nationwide outcry against the law and he’s adopted a defensive crouch. “There has been a lot of misunderstanding about this bill,” Pence asserts. “This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would’ve vetoed it.” But of course it’s about discrimination! That’s the point of the law. It invites individuals and corporations to violate state and local laws, regulations and rules, and claim, as a legal defense in court, that they were following their own religious principles. On its face, the Indiana law doesn’t mention sexuality.

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Richard Eskow

Big-Bank Bad Guys Bully Democracy – And Blow It

For so-called “masters of the universe,” Wall Street executives sure seem touchy about criticism. It seems they don’t like being painted as the bad guys. But if they don’t like being criticized, why do so many of them keep behaving like B-movie villains? That’s exactly what executives from Citigroup, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America looked like after an article appeared last week detailing their coordinated attempt to intimidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and other Democrats who want to fix the mess on Wall Street. They’ve cheated customers and defrauded investors. Now they want to use our legalized system of campaign-cash corruption to protect themselves from the very government which rescued them. Dark Matters According to a well-reported recent Reuters article, “Big Wall Street banks are so upset with U.S.

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Richard Long

Your Retirement Needs To Be Protected From These Predators

Imagine your career winding down and being presented with these two offers: $1,500 a month for the rest of your life, or a $350,000 lump sum that you can use however you see fit. Which would you choose? How would you make sure you lived comfortably for the rest of your life? In 2002 Phil Ashburn, working for what was at the time Pacific Bell telephone company, was presented with just this choice. He spoke to a financial adviser who had done business with Pacific Bell, and based on her advice decided that the lump sum was his best chance to make sure that he not only had enough money to live well, but could also leave some money behind for his family. The adviser assured him he’d “never go broke, always have money.” He placed his money in an account she recommended and chose to take out $2,700 a month. For awhile, things seemed normal.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: Cruzin’ For Bruising

Let’s be clear. Sen. Ted Cruz is not going to be president. Nor is he going to be the Republican nominee. But his wingnut tendencies will make 2016 a headache for Republicans, and more entertaining for the rest of us. Sen. Ted Cruz (R, Texas) announced his candidacy for the 2016 presidential race this week, with a speech at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Virginia. The choice of Liberty University, the private fundamentalist university founded in 1971 by Moral Majority founder Rev. Jerry Falwell, was no coincidence. Cruz’s tea party credentials have long been solid. A campaign launch at Liberty University guaranteed Cruz a chance to launch himself as both the tea party candidate and the social conservative candidate. Liberty University also guaranteed Cruz a packed house for his speech, because it was mandatory.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Unholy Week: Senate Votes Complete A Portrait Of Wrong Priorities

We’re about to enter what is on many Christian calendars Holy Week. We need to, because it certainly has been an unholy week here in Washington. Both the House and Senate have now passed budget resolutions that offer comfort and protection to the wealthy and powerful and more discomfort and vulnerability to everyone else. What else can you say about a series of votes in the Senate that ended with a majority of senators voting to eliminate the estate tax, a tax that literally affects fewer than 4,000 of the nation’s richest households, while voting to cut programs that serve millions low- and moderate-income people by more than $3 trillion? It really doesn’t get much more unholy than that.

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Dave Johnson

American Steel Hammered By Currency, Trade Policies, Infrastructure

The American steel industry is getting hammered, and not in a good way (as in good old American-made Kentucky Bourbon). Steel companies are laying off, and closing plants due to low-cost foreign imports. The Story Steel companies are getting hammered by low-priced imports. Currency manipulation and terrible trade policies, combined with lack of enforcement and cutbacks in US infrastructure maintenance and modernization are the culprits. To make things worse, foreign steel companies are just pricing in fines expected from any (good luck with that) trade-violation enforcement that might come along as “a cost of doing business.” The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review explains the problem, in “Stop foreign dumping, U.S.

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Sam Pizzigati

Enriching CEOs, Endangering Cancer Patients

Peasants with pitchforks don’t normally wear lab coats and hold medical degrees. Hagop Kantarjian does. Kantarjian currently chairs the leukemia department at the prestigious M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, one of America’s top oncology facilities. But the CEOs at America’s pharmaceutical giants these days only see pitchforks when they see Dr. Kantarjian. For good reason: The good doctor is threatening their cash cow. He’s just launched an online petition drive that’s protesting the unconscionably high prices drug makers charge for cancer drugs. How high have these prices gone? The average price of new cancer drugs is now running over $120,000 per year. And these sky-high prices, warns Dr. Kantarjian, are “harming our patients.” More and more people battling cancer simply can’t afford treatment.

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Dave Johnson

Now We Know Why Huge TPP Trade Deal Is Kept Secret From The Public

A key section of the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement has been leaked to the public. The New York Times has a major story on the contents of the leaked chapter and it’s as bad as many of us feared. Now we know why the corporations and the Obama administration want TPP, a huge “trade” agreement being negotiated between the United States and 11 other countries, kept secret from the public until it’s too late to stop it. The section of TPP that has leaked is the “Investment” chapter that includes Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Senate Budget Votes Reveal The Same Old ‘Party Of No’

The series of votes that will shape the Senate’s version of the fiscal 2016 federal budget won’t be over until Friday morning, but we already know how this drama ends, with Republicans keeping true to being the “party of ‘no'” when it comes to actions that would help raise wages, empower workers and advance the goal of shared prosperity. The Senate today launched into what’s known inside the Beltway as a “vote-a-rama,” a marathon series of votes expected to last well into the night. But the tone was arguably set on Tuesday, with a little-noticed vote on a budget amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). The Sanders amendment would have accomplished something that should have been noncontroversial: make space in the budget for funding a long-term surface transportation bill.

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Terrance Heath

Black Unemployment Report Shows Why We Needed The People’s Budget

Yesterday House Republicans passed a budget with no new funding for job creation. Today a new report on black unemployment shows the urgent need for investment in job creation. In a new report from the Economic Policy Institute, “Projected Decline in Unemployment in 2015 Won’t Lift Blacks Out of the Recession-carved Crater,” economist Valerie Wilson finds that black unemployment rates remain higher than pre-recession levels in 28 states — even though unemployed rates for whites, Latinos, and Asians have dropped to within 1 percentage point of their pre-recession levels. Black unemployment levels are projected to drop significantly in only two states — California and Illinois. Nationally, a black unemployment rate of 10.4 percent is projected for the end of 2015.

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Jeff Bryant

Revisiting A Progressive Education Agenda: What’s Happened Since?

It’s been nearly two years since the Education Opportunity Network, with the Opportunity to Learn campaign and the Campaign for America’s Future, published the Education Declaration to Rebuild America. As The Washington Post reported at the time, “The document offers a progressive approach to school reform.” What makes the document truly “progressive,” is that it advocates “equity of opportunity” and adequate financial and instructional support for every child, among other principles. Immediately, leading progressive luminaries and public school advocates – including Robert Reich, Jonathan Kozol, Linda Darling-Hammond, and Diane Ravitch – endorsed the document. The Declaration was sandwiched between two other documents that year which called for a similarly progressive education agenda based on equity of opportunity.

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Miya Pontes

Legal Action Could Hold McDonald’s Accountable For Its Worker Standards

Walk into a McDonald’s in San Francisco, New York, or any small town, and you will see very similar layouts, uniforms, and menus. You know what to expect from any individual restaurant because McDonald’s exerts considerable control over each franchisee. However, McDonald’s argues that it’s the franchisees, not the McDonald’s corporation, that are in control of the employment practices at each restaurant. McDonald’s argues that the workers at its restaurants are hired by the franchisees, and that allows McDonald’s to claim immunity when workers are subjected to illegal treatment. That argument will be put to the test Monday when the National Labor Relations Board holds its first hearing against McDonald’s for violating federal labor law.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Progressive Caucus Budget Defeated, But Wins Majority of Democrats

The Progressive Caucus People’s Budget, as expected, went down to defeat on the House floor today, but not before it picked up 96 Democratic votes, a majority of Democrats. The budget got 330 nays, including 86 from Democrats. The People’s Budget did get fewer votes than Democratic alternatives proposed by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and the Congressional Black Caucus, but it got a larger share of Democratic votes than it did in previous years. Republicans, not surprisingly, were unanimous in opposition. (See who voted for the People’s Budget, from the House Office of the Clerk.) Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, led the debate in support of the budget on the House floor. “Corporations are pocketing record profits by driving down wages with one hand, increasing the cost of basic building blocks of a happy life on the other.

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Dave Johnson

Deval Patrick, Others To Advise Astroturf Pro-TPP/Fast Track Group

Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick will head an advisory board for the Astroturf group called the Progressive Coalition for American Jobs. This group was formed to push for passage of fast track trade authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Also joining the advisory group are former Washington State Gov. Christine Gregoire and former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. The Hill reports that the three will advice the Progressive Coalition for American Jobs (PCAJ), “a new effort launched by Democrats and progressives to push for free trade.” The Associated Press, in “Top Democrats on new pro-trade board will sharpen differences among liberals, blacks,” says, “The effort will sharpen differences between the Democratic Party’s liberal and pro-business wings, especially in New England.

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Jeff Bryant

Bad Reporting About Education Is Harming Schools And Students

Be afraid, be very afraid, any time you see a reporter in the business media turn his or her attention to education and public schools. What will likely follow is a string of truisms used to prop up a specious argument, steeped in biased notions that were themselves picked up from ill-informed conversations promoted by other clueless business news outlets. All of this chatter would be something best to ignore were it not for the fact that reporters and pundits from these outlets are often raised to prominence, labeled as “experts,” and lionized by political leaders and policy makers, while real authorities on education are overlooked or completely drowned out in the babble. Exhibit A in the case against bad reporting on education is in the Feb. 14, 2015 issue of The Economist.

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Bill Scher

McConnell’s Literal Scorched Earth Campaign

Sen. Mitch McConnell has led the Senate for three months. He has yet to pass any legislation that would show the public how the Republican Party would implement solutions like raising wages, making education affordable or, say, reducing carbon pollution. Partly that is because he and his House counterpart John Boehner have their hands full containing their right flanks in order to keep the government open. But partly it is because McConnell is expending a massive amount of effort to thwart President Obama from actually solving one these problems: namely, climate change.

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Terrance Heath

Five Ways The GOP Budget Will Harm American Families

Republicans in Congress today will vote on budget proposals that are essentially meaningless, except that they lay out how the GOP would like to structure federal policy and priorities. The White House has its own fact sheet about the House Republican budget. The National Priorities Project has created a detailed comparison of all the budget proposals up for consideration: President Obama’s budget, the House GOP budget, the Senate GOP budget, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget. And here at CAF, we put together a graphic for sharing on social networks that compares the GOP budget with the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget. The numbers are familiar by now. The House GOP budget contains $5.5 trillion in cuts.

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Isaiah J. Poole

House Democrats Will Be Measured By Their People’s Budget Vote

Rep. Raùl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is presented Tuesday with the names of more than 150,000 people who signed up to be co-sponsors of the People’s Budget. Politics isn’t always the art of compromise. Sometimes, it is the imperative of standing up for principle. Sometimes, it is the refusal to accept the boundaries of the politically acceptable and, guided by a vision of a nation that can do better by its people, redraw the boundaries. One of those moments will come today when House Democrats will decide whether to support the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ People’s Budget. Usually, the Progressive Caucus budget fails to get the votes of a majority of House Democrats. It’s not hard to imagine why.

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Richard Eskow

Support the Progressive Caucus Budget (Video with Thom Hartmann)

In a recent televised conversation, Thom Hartmann and I discussed the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ proposed federal budget. The “People’s Budget” would create 8.8 million new jobs, rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, restore SNAP nutritional assistance funding, end sequestration cuts, restore unemployment benefits, expand Social Security benefits, raise taxes on millionaires (to Clinton-era levels), provide public campaign financing – all while reducing the deficit by more than $4 trillion over ten years. These measures are fiscally sound. They are also, by and large, popular with Americans across the political spectrum. It is, in fact, a surprisingly reasonable and even moderate document, as its deficit-reduction measures demonstrate. In most other moments in recent history, this would be a mainstream political proposal.

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